Obituaries

David Kasem
D: 2017-09-18
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Kasem, David
Sam Negrin
D: 2017-09-16
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Negrin, Sam
Minnie Markowitz-Siegel
D: 2017-09-12
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Markowitz-Siegel, Minnie
Claire Heigh
D: 2017-09-11
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Heigh, Claire
Esther Yablon
D: 2017-09-11
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Yablon, Esther
John Kandl
D: 2017-09-09
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Kandl, John
Tanya Sanford
D: 2017-09-07
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Sanford, Tanya
Amy Kaplan
D: 2017-09-03
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Kaplan, Amy
Philip Spector
D: 2017-08-31
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Spector, Philip
Harriet Cerrito
D: 2017-08-31
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Cerrito, Harriet
Barry Neidoff
D: 2017-08-30
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Neidoff, Barry
David Glass
D: 2017-08-29
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Glass, David
Herbert Schilsky
D: 2017-08-29
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Schilsky, Herbert
Sara Barrett
D: 2017-08-28
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Barrett, Sara
Elaine Liebmann
D: 2017-08-20
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Liebmann, Elaine
Sylvia Landesman
D: 2017-08-20
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Landesman, Sylvia
Melvin Pitkowsky
D: 2017-08-18
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Pitkowsky, Melvin
Elaine Weisberg
D: 2017-08-18
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Weisberg, Elaine
Leslie Rudman
D: 2017-08-10
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Rudman, Leslie
Suzanne Hamberry
D: 2017-08-09
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Hamberry, Suzanne
Clara Kleinfeld
D: 2017-08-08
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Kleinfeld, Clara

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Writing an Obituary

how to write an obituary newspaperWhat is an obituary?

More than merely a "good-bye" to the deceased, this is a farewell which can, in chronological order, detail the life of the deceased. An obituary also serves as notification that an individual has passed away and details of the services that are to take place. An obituary's length may be somewhat dictated by the space available in the newspaper it is to appear in. Therefore it's best to check how much room you have before you begin your composition. Remember that the obituary needs to appear in print a few days prior to the memorial service. There are some cases where this may not be possible, therefore give some consideration to the guidelines below when composing the obituary.

Survivors

It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Parents
  • Spouse and children
  • Adopted children
  • Half & step children
  • Siblings
  • Half- & step-siblings
  • Grandparents

The surviving relatives listed above may be listed by name. Other relatives will not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the obituary may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren; 7 nieces etc. However, exceptions to the above rule can be made if, for example, the deceased only had one grandchild or a nephew who was the only person living in the newspaper's distribution area. These exceptions are obviously made based on each individual case.

Example of an Obituary - Doris Roberts

An excellent example of an obituary is the New York Times obituary written for Emmy Award winning television actress Doris Roberts by Margalit Fox.

The obituary that was published is quite lengthy and can be read in full here.

The following sections are excerpts from the obituary and serve as excellent examples of how to write an obituary.

 

"Originally trained as a stage actress, Ms. Roberts found particular acclaim on the screen, often playing mothers and grandmothers who radiated dyspeptic wisecracking warmth: Over time, she did duty as the mothers of Tony Danza, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marlo Thomas, among many others."

 

This first excerpt is from the beginning of the obituary and discusses the types of roles Mrs. Roberts was most well-known for. From there, it begins to list some of the blockbuster stars that she worked with during her career.

 

"Doris May Green was born in St. Louis on Nov. 4, 1925, the daughter of Larry Green and the former Ann Meltzer. Her father left the family when Doris was a child, and she was reared in the Bronx by her mother. She later took the surname of her stepfather, Chester Roberts.

Ms. Roberts briefly attended N.Y.U. before studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan. She later trained at the Actors Studio, where her cohort included Anne Bancroft, Martin Balsam and Marilyn Monroe."

 

This excerpt is an excellent example of outlining a person’s early years prior to discussing their achievements. It makes a brief reference to her childhood as well as mentioning her education and how she got her start as an actress. This is important because many people are often only familiar with the professional achievements and later years of the deceased but not there childhood.

 

"As outspoken as her best-known character (though demonstrably less choleric), Ms. Roberts was an advocate for many causes, including animal rights and the fight against ageism.

An ardent cook, Ms. Roberts was the author of “Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna” (2003), a memoir, with recipes, written with Danelle Morton."

 

It’s important to highlight some of the achievements the person accomplished in their life. At the beginning of the obituary, it mentions the awards Mrs. Roberts had won. This section does a good job of highlighting some of her other achievements away from work that many people may not have known about. It’s important to highlight the ways the deceased impacted the lives of others. In this case, Mrs. Roberts worked hard to advocate for different social causes and make people aware of them.

 

Ms. Roberts’s first marriage, to Michael Emilio Cannata, ended in divorce. Her second husband, William Goyen, a novelist and playwright, died in 1983. Survivors include a son, Michael Robert Cannata, and three grandchildren. She also had a home in Manhattan.

 

An important part to include within an obituary is a reference to the deceased’s family. In this case, Mrs. Roberts was preceded by her husband in death so it makes reference to that. It also makes sure to list her son and the grandchildren she is survived by.

Do's & Don'ts

If you don't know where to start, do read other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching an obituary may be.

Do use such terms as "visitation will be from" or "friends may call from". Do not utilize the phrase "lie in state" as that only applies to a head of state such as the prime minister or president.

Don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers" when memorial donations are to be requested. Instead merely start the final paragraph of the obituary with the words "Memorial donations may be made to"

Do consider if you wish to send the obituary to newspapers in other cities e.g. to a town where the deceased may have resided previously. Obtain copies of the obituary to send to distant relatives and friends.

 

Final Considerations

Any and all information to be included in the obituary should be verified with another family member. A newspaper will have to verify with the funeral home being utilized that the deceased is in fact being taken care of by that funeral home.

Seeing as most newspapers charge by the word when placing an obituary, it may not always be feasible to mention everything that we have stated in our guidelines. Use your own discretion and do not put yourself under any financial hardship. Your loved one would understand.