O'BRIEN: Making a plea for more creative obituaries

Posted: Feb. 18, 2014 8:52 am Updated: May. 13, 2014 9:15 am
If asked to give a reason why people pick up the newspaper, reading the obituaries ranks in the top three. It’s the place people check to see if anyone they know has died.

The older people get, the closer many of them look at the page, if for no other reason than to make sure their name isn’t on it.

For years, obituaries were filled with nothing more than straightforward information about the deceased. You’d learn a little bit about the person, but you never truly had the full story.

That’s changed.

The best obits are the ones that stray from the nuts and bolts you see in most listings. I always feel for the folks who list themselves as being a fan of the Chicago Cubs. They remind me of my Cubs-loving grandfather, who died at age 91 in 2009 without ever having seen them win a World Series.

Many of us identify ourselves with our favorite sports teams, so it’s no surprise that teams are often listed in people’s obits. That love of team can lead to funny obits.

Take the case of Kansas City Chiefs fan Sam Lickteig of Grandview, Mo., who died in November 2012.

“Lickteig passed away on Nov. 14, 2012 of complications from (multiple sclerosis) and heartbreaking disappointment caused by the Kansas City Chiefs,” read his obit in the Kansas City Star.

“My dad was such a comedian,” Lickteig’s daugher, Jennifer, told a Kansas City TV station. “He loved the Chiefs, so we had to left him have the last word.”

Scott Entsminger of Mansfield, Ohio, was a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season-ticket holder. When he died last year, he put a special request in his obit that ran in the Columbus Dispatch:

“He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time,” it said.

Emmett Pearson of Vasa, Minn., was a huge fan of the Minnesota Vikings. He died in October at the age of 83 sporting a long beard that he had worn for nearly 40 years. His obit told the story.

“Many will remember Emmett for his unforgettable beard, something he’s had since 1975 when the Vikings lost the Super Bowl to the Steelers,” it said. “A staunch Vikings fan, the beard was not coming off until the Vikings won a Super Bowl. Needless to say, Emmett died never having shaved his beard.”

But the obit by which all other “unique” obits is compared belongs to William Freddie McCullough of Bloomingdale, Ga., who died in September. When an obit starts off with “The man. The myth. The legend,” you know you’re in for a good read.

McCullough “hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order.”

He wrote of his love of southern food, riding his motorcycle and fishing. He also loved women, naming a few and admitting “there isn’t enough room in this space to list all of the women from Freddie’s past.”

The obit is glorious. Even if even half of it is true, the guy was awesome.

If you may be dying soon — and I’m sorry if you are — consider spicing up that obit.

Entertaining us as we read about your life is appreciated.

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