Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Humor can cause obituaries to go viral
“Make sure you don’t give my ashes to my mother. She’ll put them in a drawer with my grandparents.” Instructions from the obituary of Bob Harrar
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Take a friend fishing. Don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Buy a lottery ticket. And keep Mom away from my ashes.
These are among thousands of emotional, humorous, sometimes snarky requests inserted into published obituaries, attributed to the deceased or their families. And though complete strangers have always been among the audiences for messages from beyond the grave, digital death notices mean they now reach far beyond family and friends to people around the world.
“It takes just one funny, unusual or touching line for an obituary to go viral,” said Katie Falzone, director of operations for Legacy.com, which compiles and archives death notices.
That was the case last month after the death of staunch Republican Larry Upright of Kannapolis, North Carolina, whose obituary ended with the line: “The family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. R.I.P. Grandaddy.”
That bit of stumping won national attention and all kinds of comments on the funeral home’s website and on social media. News accounts were tweeted, retweeted and referenced on Facebook and viewed on YouTube tens of thousands of times.
“We got some sweet responses and we got some nasty responses,” said Upright’s wife, Colleen. “But we’re Uprights, and that just rolls off our backs.”
There have been other politics-oriented dying requests in recent years: to vote for George W. Bush and to support his removal from office; to donate to President Barack Obama and to support “anyone but Obama”; to vote Democratic and to support the tea party.
After 24-year-old Molly Parks of Manchester, New Hampshire, died last month from a heroin overdose, her obituary also spread through cyberspace, fueled by the brokenhearted pleas of her father.
“If you have any loved ones who are fighting addiction, Molly’s family asks that you do everything possible to be supportive, and guide them to rehabilitation before it is too late,” he wrote.
Most of the requests from the dead have to do with the ceremonies of death.
Bob Harrar of Orlando, Florida, who died in December, put these instructions into his obit: “Make sure you don’t give my ashes to my mother. She’ll put them in a drawer with my grandparents.”
Milton Miller of Little Rock, Arkansas, left word that anyone feeling sad about his passing should “mix a beverage of your choice and hum the Razorback fight song.”
Garland Babcock of Anchorage, Alaska, left very specific instructions to have his ashes “put in an old trucker’s Thermos and driven in a red Chevy truck to Monterey Bay, California.”
And the obituary for Larry Sajko of Port Richey, Florida, said, “Larry requests no cellphones at his service.”
When Christian “Lou” Hacker died last month in Valatie, New York, his obituary said he left behind “a hell of a lot of stuff his wife and daughter have no idea what to do with.”
So they told readers, “If you’re looking for car parts for a Toyota, BMW, Triumph, Dodge or Ford between the years of about 1953-2013, or maybe half a dozen circular saws, still in their boxes with the Home Depot receipts attached, you should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch.”
Hacker’s wife, Mina, said this past week that the invitation was “mostly a joke and no one has taken us up on it.”
“Actually, it will take us a while to decide what to do,” she said. “Everything is attached to a memory.”
When “in lieu of flowers” appears in an obituary, it typically requests donations to a favorite charity of the deceased. But it’s also been attached to a variety of strange requests.
“In lieu of flowers, tune up your car and check the air pressure in your tires — he would have wanted that,” read the 2011 obituary for B.H. Spratt of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. And these: “In lieu of flowers, the family asks that if you smoke, try quitting at least one more time.”
“In lieu of flowers, if you knew Bud,’` he would want you to mix yourself a Manhattan.”
“In lieu of flowers, buy a lottery ticket. You might be lucky.”
Thomas Taylor of Durham, North Carolina, was apparently hoping to get some money back after his death.
Taylor died in 2008, nine years after making his funeral arrangements.
His obituary said one of Taylor’s last requests “was to contact the Cremation Society to ask for a refund because he knew he weighed at least 20 percent less than when he paid for his arrangements.”