Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Obituary

In this very technical world, some of the best resources are being lost. One is the art of the obituary. Newspapers have all but disappeared and with them, the daily notice of who died and when. I can't remember how long ago it was that I subscribed to a newspaper.

When my mom died, there was no notice in the paper. When my dad died, there wasn't one either, the family was notified by telephone. At least, they were not texted which I think would have been disrespectful.

Obituaries used to mean something. It told the world that someone important to someone had passed away. Even if it was in a small newspaper, people read them. If they knew the person, they somehow made contact with the rest of the family to offer their condolences. Today, on facebook, a "sorry" is offered. Please forgive me, I am guilty of doing that once and should have sent a card or made a call.

For those researching family history, it is more disturbing. The obituary told us a little about the person; who they were, what they did. It sometimes told us how they died. It gave us family members. It told us time and place. Those facts are hard to come by. Oh, we get date and place and sometime cause of death and occupation but it is all very impersonal.

My mom died on May 8, 1998. She died in Perris, California. She was retired. She died of a heart attack. That doesn't begin to tell us who she was and she was so much more. On the other hand, here's what the obituary for my grandfather read:

Death Claims E. M. Yeakley/Veteran Printer, Preacher here since 1911

Reverend Ernest M. Yeakley, 56, veteran Wichita Falls printer and Baptist minister, died Monday night about 10:30 o'clock at a Wichita Falls hospital. Yeakley, who came to Wichita Falls in 1911 went to the hospital a few days ago suffering from a paralytic condition. A heart attack was the cause of his sudden death Monday night. Yeakley had worked on newspapers in many Texas towns. He was one of the first printer employed by the Times Publishing Company after its institution in Wichita Falls. In recent years he was employed in newspapers in Gainesville and Sherman. He held pastorates in Baptist churches in dundee, Black Flat, and Kamay within the last few years, being the minister at the Kamay Baptist Church in 1937 and 1938. Yeakley , who made his home at 1317 Eighteenth, survived his wife by approximately five years. He had been employed at the Buchanan Stationery Company as a printer for almost a year. Survivors include five sons, Lee M. Yeakley, Wichita Falls, Noel Yeakley, Dickens, Texas, Don Yeakley, Houston, J. D. Yeakley, San Diego, Calif, Pvt. Eugene Yeakley, Denver, Colo; three daughters, Mrs M.E. Edmonds, Houston and Misses Ruby and Lola Mae Yeakley, both of Wichita Falls; one brother, Lynn Yeakley, Gainesville; two sisters, Mrs. Nola King, Gainesville, and Mrs. Jennie Riley, Gainesville, and 12 grandchildren. Funeral arrangements in charge of Owens and Brumley Funeral Home are incomplete awaiting word for the sons at Denver and San Diego.

There was also a picture that put a face to the name.

Today, the closest thing we have is Find A Grave. I was remiss as I sponsor my mother's site and hadn't added a bio. After writing this, I went to the site and updated the information. I have others yet to do. I want everyone to know they were important. 


  1. Your blog entries also let everyone know they were important :) !

  2. I have to say that in most small town newspapers here in Texas, Obituaries are still a part of daily or weekly printings and reads. Although, their are limitations on number of words and extra costs for pictures, the obits are very informative...especially if written by a family member. As you know, I am a Find A Grave contributor, and have dedicated much time to my families Memorials. I too want my family and ancestors to be known, for as you say, they were so much more than a name with a birth and death date. Your Grandfathers Obit was a very special tribute. Having been out of town and getting behind, I'm catching up with posting and visiting...hope you can stop by.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

  3. I miss the beautifully written obits of old. But where I live, few people can afford an obit. The newspaper charges by the LINE, and you know those columns aren't very wide. We paid over $500 for just a bare-bones notice for each of my parents' obits. My daughters opted not to do engagement or wedding announcements in the paper either because of the cost.
    Wendy at Jollett Etc.

  4. I wrote a long (too long, probably) obit when my mom passed in 2010 and sent it to two different newspapers (one in MI where she was born and raised, and one in CA where she spent most of her adult life). It was definitely expensive, but I don't regret it. I wanted to put it in the Los Angeles Times, too, but it would have cost thousands for that paper alone. I couldn't believe it. I think all papers should make at least some kind of minimal obituary space free! My only real regret is that my mom's obit contains a factual error that I thought was true at the time, and there's no way to fix it.

  5. Costs of newspaper notices and the publishing of obituaries in Australia appear to be very different. For the Adelaide newspaper on the weekend it would cost $17.50 for the first two lines on the weekend, for the Melbourne Age it is under $13 a line. The Melbourne Age is one of the larger newspapers in Australia. When my grandmother died last year, as well as the death notice, the Adelaide paper published her obituary. My father wrote it and the paper edited it. It was an article that took three-quarters of the page and included a large photograph. There was no charge. She had had a notable and interesting life. Publication was a matter of editorial discretion. I think the paper might have written something but they were pleased to have my father do the work for them.