Obituaries and cemeteries

March 2021 – Senior Connections and HJ sympathy section
By Dale Kovar

When Internet service first became available in our area in 1997, we were among the first newspapers to get a website in place.

It was a time of learning, because unlike the printed newspaper, the website gave us specific statistics on what was being read. Right away, we found out that obituaries were consistently among the most-viewed items every week.

Since then, we have accumulated roughly 9,000 obituaries into our website archive. Each week we add a few. I think the most we’ve had in any given week is 18.

Obituaries have always been a staple of newspapers, but formats vary over time and place.

In some cases, large dailies had obituary writers on staff. Now, an obituary at a metro daily often is condensed into the smallest possible space, due to cost of printing and distribution.

On the weekly side, I remember long ago a fill-in-the-blanks format for obituaries. Since in those days, everything had to be typed either from handwriting or typewriter into a layout/printing format, such a process was convenient to the newspaper staff. The result provided a scrapbook record but not much more.

Now the writing of obituaries is usually done either by a family member or with the assistance of a funeral director. We receive them by email to copy-and-paste, usually only needing some minor editing to be placed into our format.

Our practice is to try to leave them intact as much as we can, mostly making sure the basic details are included, and conforming it to newspaper style (abbreviations, capitalization, etc.)

Last year was the first year we began to charge for obituaries like almost every other newspaper has done for years.

Even so, we try not to put hard limits on how long one can be or, within reason, what is included.

The best written obituaries contain not only the facts of the deceased person’s life, but also capture some of his/her personality – what was enjoyed, things said, beliefs – all things that loved ones will want to remember.

When the time comes, we encourage you to use our obituaries as that significant record about your loved one’s life. Include the details that made him/her unique.

I have a draft obituary written for myself with a couple statements I’d like included. I guess you’ll have to wait awhile yet to see what those are.

* * *

Once in awhile, my wife and I will stop and walk through a cemetery.

Besides the local ones where we have loved ones buried, we actually go to other ones, like while we’re on vacation, where we don’t know anybody.

Linda likes to look for the oldest tombstones she can find, many of which are barely readable. I tend to focus on names, seeing if I can find one that matches a name of someone I know.

There isn’t anything more to it than that, just a curious diversion to see what we see.

Did I mention cemeteries have free admission? Well, at least to visit. If you plan on staying, there is a charge.

Some of the gravesites are well-kept and accessorized with trinkets that others have left in memory. Some of the tombstones are elaborate, others are modest. A few appear quite neglected.

My first experience with cemeteries goes back to when I was a kid and helped my uncle mow the grass at the cemetery where he was caretaker.

Talk about having to go around objects while mowing! I said many times that my tombstone should be a flat, ground-level type that allows a mower to drive right over it. Either that or cemeteries should have artificial turf instead of grass. (Of course, a quick web search shows that there is such a thing.)

One cemetery we visited a few years ago had a couple of driveway marker poles in an area where a roadway was being repaired. I latched on to the idea that such a pole would be an adequate marker for me – stick it in the ground and write my name on some duct tape.

Seriously, I don’t see burdening my family with an expensive monument. I’m going to be resurrected anyway so I don’t need deluxe accommodations for my body to rot in while waiting for our Lord’s return.

In any case, we all have an invisible expiration date stamped on us. In the scope of things, it is best that we can’t foresee when that is.

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