A Mes­sage Among the Obits

The Washington Post - - The Region - — Sal­lie Wil­liams Reese, Vi­enna

I started read­ing the obituaries 20 years ago, when I was preg­nant, look­ing for names. The names for peo­ple who were born in the early 1900s were much dif­fer­ent than the Michaels and Jen­nifers that were pop­u­lar in the ’80s. I didn’t use any of the obit names but got lots of ideas. Dorothy was pop­u­lar for girls — you don’t hear of many Dorothys to­day. Ge­orge and Aubrey were pop­u­lar for boys, and you don’t hear those too of­ten among the Joshuas and Alexes of to­day.

Fif­teen years later, af­ter the death of my fa­ther at age 83, I found my­self reg­u­larly read­ing the obits, com­par­ing what other men had died of, con­sol­ing my­self that he had out­lived many by 10 or more years. One day my eye caught an obit of a William S. Frank (my fa­ther was Frank S. Wil­liams), and it was point­ing me to an obit next to it for Al­fred Price, our life in­sur­ance agent. For sev­eral years, I had asked my fa­ther what had hap­pened to Al Price, as he called each one of us on our birth­day for many years. His calls had stopped sev­eral years be­fore, and we won­dered whether he had re­tired or died.

I am quite sure my dad was talk­ing to me through the obits that par­tic­u­lar day. Or maybe it was Al Price call­ing from be­yond.

Frank S. Wil­liams, fa­ther of Sal­lie Wil­liams Reese.

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