Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Give Yourself a Proper Sendoff

A badly overused joke among mature adults is that they read death notices in newspapers just to make sure they're not among the deceased that day. Having reached a ripe old age, I'm certain the real reason oldsters read the obits so religiously is because their contemporaries are dropping like flies, and the readers are very curious to see what is written about the dearly departeds they knew. I maintain that obituaries prepared by funeral directors or newspaper staffers with information provided by family members are not first rate, an unfortunate situation that could be corrected with a bit of advance work.

Everyone should write his or her own obituary.

An elderly writer who I supervised in the early 1980s convinced me of the truth of this. The guy wasn't extremely productive, but he could be creative. When he began telling me of the virtues of writing one's own swan song, I expected some of the usual fiddle faddle about how it would help the family in a time of great emotional stress. Nope. The principal reason was entirely self serving--you can portray yourself in a highly favorable way and not say a single thing that is untrue. And you'll be doing the readers a favor because you can leave out all those unfounded, irritating laudatory statements, such as "he was beloved by all who knew him" or "she was a true friend in times of need" or "he will be sorely missed" or similar banal nonsense.

Another virtue of the do-it-yourself approach is it gives you one last chance to say before a large audience a few nice things about the people you love or admire.

The secret to successful, yet honest, self-aggrandizement starts with the realization that all obituaries are written in the past tense. Thus, you can mention every positive activity you ever engaged in without regard to how long you did it or how effective you were. You know more of the little positive things in your life than anyone else, so you should do the job or work with another to prepare the final salute to yourself.

The obituary I wrote in preparation for my demise follows. Every word in it is the truth. But you will find several instances of making myself look more impressive than I was by simply stating an unqualified fact. An example is in the second paragraph. I was a class president in high school. Sounds pretty grand. However, I was the freshman class president, and the frosh came from several different grade schools. They hadn't been together long enough to get to know each other before elections were held. Most who voted for me didn't know a thing about me. And there were only 80 kids in the class, anyway.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Richard J. Klade left us on ___________ after __ years of living well, laughing often, and loving much.

Dick was born Jan. 1, 1936 at Tomahawk, WI, to wonderful parents, Fred and Margaret Klade. As a youth, his passion was playing baseball on youth league, high school, American Legion, and county league teams. He also was a high school class president, saxophonist in the band, and a football player.

He started working at age 10 as a shoeshine boy and later was a waiter, farm and canning factory laborer, supermarket butcher, and printing shop helper. His savings and two small scholarships financed study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a journalism degree in 1957. At UW, he was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, professional journalism fraternity, and was elected president of Sigma Nu social fraternity.

He served with pride in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, primarily as a troop information specialist at Fort Sill, OK.

Dick's professional work included stints as City Editor of the De Pere (WI) Journal-Democrat and Sports Editor of the Daily Tribune in Wisconsin Rapids. He also worked in public relations and sales promotion at The West Bend Company, Allis-Chalmers, and the McCoy Job Corps Center as an RCA employee. His writing occasionally appeared in the Sporting News and other national media. Dick achieved his two minutes of fame in 1973 when he presented a report on the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite."

He joined a great outfit, the U.S. Forest Service, in 1968. He served as a writer-editor at the Forest Products Laboratory, Public Information Officer for the Boise National Forest and Eastern and Intermountain Regions, and Director of Research Information for the Intermountain Station in Ogden where he retired in 1994. He was awarded 11 Certificates of Merit for outstanding performance during his Forest Service career.

Along the way he was a charter member of the De Pere Junior Chamber of Commerce, a Kiwanis Club member in Boise, and for several years volunteered as a Greek Awards applications judge for Weber State University. He devoted more than 16 years to serving his neighbors in various capacities with the White Barn Homeowners Association in Pleasant View, UT.

Dick married the love of his life and best friend, Sandy, in West Bend, WI in 1961. Their son Lee, a stained glass artist in Plainwell, MI, was raised to be an honest man with good values by Sandy while his father pursued less important activities. Sandy and Lee remain with us, along with five nieces and nephews.

Dick loved his family, people of integrity, trying to hit golf balls (he got four holes-in-one, but said all were accidental), the Green Bay Packers, and Dixieland jazz, in about that order. He was a member of People's Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Kalamazoo, where for several years he chaired the Men's Discussion Group and met many new friends. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Birth of This Blog

How could I resist? An AARP magazine article said that although only 5 percent of the millions of bloggers were seniors (I prefer "mature adults"), the number of oldsters was growing rapidly. I had to learn what this was all about. As the magazine recommended, I checked the blog created by Mort Reichek, an 81-year-old retired journalist who formerly wrote for such national media as Business Week and Forbes.

Reichek's musings were, or course, well written. They also were fascinating. After exchanging e-mails with him, mostly to see if the system worked as advertised, I was hooked. Reichek sees his blog as a creative outlet that also has provided a welcome network of pen pals.

Reichek "publishes" good stuff. Sometime back, one pundit advanced the opinion that the advent of the internet gave "vast numbers of people the opportunity to create vast amounts of junk."

I hope my meager efforts will fall into the "good stuff" bin more often than the "junk" box.