Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Hu­mor can cause obit­u­ar­ies to go vi­ral

- By Jim Fitzger­ald As­so­ci­ated Press

“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 Le­, 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.”

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