Obituaries have stories to tell

I can’t count the times we’ve had an obituary come in and realized the great story we missed.
Just last week, we ran an obituary for a woman born in Rossford in 1941, who moved to a ranch in Oklahoma
where she punched cattle, branded calves and tended heifers as a ranch hand. She later returned to
Rossford and was among the first group of women hired at the LOF glass plant.
Then there was the Bowling Green man who served as a gunner aboard the B17 Pot of Gold, who flew several
successful missions during WWII. After his plane was shot down over Germany, he was captured and held as
a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft VI for 15 months.
Obituaries can reveal extraordinary details about people we thought had ordinary lives. During the last
two months alone, some great stories were told in those obituaries.
For example, when a 96-year-old died in Wayne last month, her obituary told how she became an attorney in
an age when few women were welcomed in courtrooms. She presented oral arguments to the Florida Supreme
Court involving capital punishment cases. One case involved pigs, "as in those days, stealing a
man’s pigs was as serious as killing his wife."
There was the 90-year-old man who taught computer classes in the 1960s, when computers were an
"exotic mystery" to most people. He and his wife had 14 children, all who went on to college.
In fact, between 1969 and 1983, the couple had three or more children in college at a time. Always
staying up with technology, at age 88, he drove cross country and kept his family updated with Facebook
posts.
Many speak of marrying the love of their life. Many went right from high school to war. And many listed
double digits of siblings or offspring.
Some people – or their families – take the opportunity to tell readers what the deceased loved in life.
They list more than people and the customary pets. One man mentioned his beloved mules, Bertie and
Maude.
Some profess their love of bacon, ice cream or hot and spicy food. Seriously. Some noted their fondness
for crossword puzzles, soap operas, WWE wrestling and dining out.
Others liked to spend time hunting for morel mushrooms, square dancing, viewing old western movies,
talking on a Ham radio, listening to bluegrass, watching the sunset, drag racing, making homemade
noodles, and collecting ducks.
Some of us should take pause, wondering how our loved ones will remember us in what may be the final
published words. One recent obituary noted a woman was "known for her tidy home." I’ll have to
make note to my family not to mention the tidiness of my home …
A 92-year-old Grand Rapids woman was praised as an excellent dancer, who "never missed an area polka
festival." A Perrysburg 86-year-old woman held the Senior Olympics record for basketball since age
55.
One 86-year-old man was remembered for his "innate sense of direction," which aided him as he
traveled the 50 states.
A Bowling Green woman became a "government girl" in Washington, D.C., in 1942, was later a
champion bowler, die-hard Tigers fan and published poet.
A 90-year-old man helped take Okinawa in WWII, then returned home to marry his sweetheart. He spent two
seasons pitching in a professional baseball league in Kansas, was injured and came home to farm and work
in construction.
An obituary for a 99-year-old man said he witnessed the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee when he was 10.
He planted trees for the Civilian Conservation Corps in Bowling Green as a teen. And after falling in
love with a visiting student from Sweden, he wrote her for a year, convincing her to return and marry
him. "He was a very good letter writer," his wife said in the obituary.
Sometimes the most interesting tidbits in an obituary are the nicknames people are blessed or harnessed
with for life. One recent obituary listed a man’s brothers as "Fin," "Grump,"
"Ears" and "Gut."
So my point here is three-fold. First, don’t disregard an obituary simply because you don’t know the
person. Some have wonderful stories to share. Second, live your life so you would be proud of your
obituary. And third, be nice to family members – they’ll have the last word.