THAT obit....

Dateline: Wed 16 Feb 2011

A blog reader sent an email Tuesday, asking if I'd read Mary Childers obit in the Indianapolis Star Monday. Two thoughts: first, former News/Star reporter Art Harris' caustic line that today's obits in the Star "read like they are written by monkies," which is the old school line of thinking; and second, what the hell, Archie, what the hell....they pay, they get to play.

Anyhow, I was scooped by my buddy Jim Hopkins over at Gannett Blog on this one. His posting of Childers' obit drew 51 mostly intelligent comments.

Here is the obit -- and the issue seems to be, whose life is it, anyway? Yes, in the old days, obits were free and sober and often dull. Today, at Gannett, the grief-stricken relatives pay a pretty penny and get to say what they want.

As did Mary's people....

"Mary N. Childers 76 years old passed away at home with friends at her bedside. Born in Booneville, Mississippi, to Ruby and Olga (Barns) Ricks. Mary was preceded in death by Stanley Childers and her son, Jimmy. Mary worked at Cardinal Mailing, Holly Oak Club, Dungeon, Hilltop Tavern, Butches Tavern, Trouble Shooters for the AW, Ritter Inn, was Den Mother for the Outlaws Motorcycle Club and the Owner and CEO of the F@#$ing Fudge Factory and Cannery. She was an avid bowler and gardener, treasurer and secretary of the South Bradley Crime Watch, and the
Godmother of the South Bradley Women's Mob. She will be missed by her bookie the only bookie who made house calls, keeping her neighborhood in line and always clean as she headed up the neighborhood clean up. She is
survived by her wife, June Stahl of 28 years. After Elvis left the building he moved to her basement and was holding court. Visitation will be held Tuesday, February 15, 2011 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Shirley Brothers Irving Hill Chapel, 5377 E. Washington St. with funeral services to be held on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Mary loved and honored all who entered her life. She was able to let people know what was expected and to help all to be successful."

Final comment: if such an obituary had actually run in the roaring 80s or 90s, some enterprising feature reporter would have proposed a story on all those clubs Mary worked for.  Now, that would have been a scoop.



Anonymous [unverified] said:

Hey, when I croak, maybe my obit can say I was president, publisher of The Star, whatever?

2011-02-16 16:53:20

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"if such an obituary had actually run in the roaring 80s or 90s,"

If such had run, Somesuch would have been fired.

Fairly or not, obits used to be some measure of a person's community standing. Big obit meant the deceased had done something, been somebody. Obits were often writ in advance, kept on file and updated at time of death.

Now, obits are the one source of reliable revenue at the Star. The recent obit of the reprobate uncle of a former local financial mogul proudly read like a description of Bluto in "Animal House." Meanwhile, the prohibitive cost of column inches kept the obits short for a couple very accomplished people of considerable community standing.

I found Ms Childers obit amusing. And it may have accurately reflected her true and interesting life.

I just wish that the obit pages could provide the institutional memory that they once did, incorporating actual journalistic standards, rather than serving as Gannett's cash cow with a "pay for say" standard.

2011-02-17 06:39:36

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