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Written by Sharon Verbeten


A recent article in my hometown newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, told about a man who recently wrote his own obituary. Not that strange, really, unless you realize that the man is still very much alive.


You may have heard about this concept of writing obituaries while the person is still alive. Several bloggers — including funeral profession icon Alan Creedy — have written about it. And most are taking the stance that funeral directors MUST get involved with this in some way.


I agree. I think adding “writing and submitting an obituary” to your GPL is a fine idea. But beyond that, I recommend having a freelance writer or newspaper writer on retainer to write these in proper form.


Most newspapers charge for death notices anyway; why not offer something a bit more special than is usually submitted? For some great examples of obituaries of “regular” people, I highly recommend reading the words of iconic newspaper obituarist Jim Sheeler, author of Obit and Final Salute.


To say Sheeler writes obituaries is a gross understatement. He writes glowing essays about a person’s life — whether they were a head of state, a military veteran, a simple donut shop employee or even a homeless person. His carefully crafted words highlight the person behind the name — and the notable things they did with their life, even if no one else knew about them.


These are the things that get people noticed — unfortunately, it may be after they’re gone. But obituaries should be fitting tributes in every way — no matter what one’s status in life.


Like Creedy and other bloggers weighing in on this topic, I advocate for some revisiting of the topic of obituaries — and how they can be a value-added, reputation-building service for funeral homes.


Please weigh in, I’d love to hear your views and get a discourse going.


Freelance writer/editor Sharon Verbeten has written about the funeral profession — in trade journals and online — for more than 20 years. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


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