Al Easton was a life actuary in his working days, a demanding designation to receive, as I understand it. As his obituary noted, he was very accomplished in his field.
One might think, as a result, he’d be a quiet and reserved sort; this was not true. My wife told me that actuaries have among the most significant job satisfaction rates, which this article seems to confirm. Al was almost always a joyful man with a seriously whimsical streak.
He was very competent when he was treasurer at our church for several years, keeping precise details on how well the member pledges were keeping up. Yet, even when he gave those fiscal annual reports, he did so not in a dry and dull manner but with a certain panache and a twinkle in his eyes.
Al was very musical. At various events, he might pull out his guitar and play tunes. He sang tenor in our church choir and other organizations and was highly regular in attendance, as was his late wife, Susan, before she died in 2022.
Al and I were also part of the Tuesday edition of the Bible Guys. He could be quite insightful. At the same time, he might be pretty funny, often when one wasn’t expecting it. This was a good trait to have as we attempted to slog through some of those Old Testament bloodbaths. It could be a corny joke or an insightful aside.
Al died of prostate cancer, which several famous men, including Jerry Orbach, succumbed to. It also killed my father, which is why I get my PSA checked regularly.
I like this line in the obituary: “While Al was very successful in business, his joys in life were his family, his faith, fellowship, folk songs, and fireworks-somewhere in that order…
“Funeral services will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2024, at 3:00 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 362 State Street, Albany, N.Y. ” Of course, I will be singing in the choir because that’s what choir people do.
Now I Know: The Crows Didn’t Mind Dick Cheney, Though and When Bees Get Too Buzzed and The Worst House Money Can’t Buy and The Secret Writer’s Secret and The TV News Program’s Key Mistake and Why This Reindeer Looks Like It Has a Lightsaber Hat
BAFTA Awards. Two days after the awards came out, someone told me several of their friends posted online that the Oscars had taken place. Nah, it was lost in translation; probably, the friends missed that it was the so-called “British Oscars”
The book “Side by Side in Eternity:” by James Robert McNeil and J. Eric Smith is now available. I have my copy. There’s a chapter about Apollo 1, one defining event growing up.
The six-year making of the Wait But Why book What’s Our Problem: a self-help book for societies
Ana de Armas Thinks Social Media Has Ruined the “Concept of a Movie Star.” “For the most part, we’ve done that to ourselves — nobody’s keeping anything from anyone anymore.” This has been self-evident for a long while.
60 of 23 and Michael Jordan donates $10M to Make-A-Wish for 60th birthday
Rebecca Jade, the first niece, was nominated for FIVE San Diego Music Awards, which will be taking place on April 25. You can VOTE EVERY DAY. Vote in category 20, Best R&B, Funk, or Soul Song for Show Me; category 21, Best R&B, Funk, or Soul Album, for A Shade of Jade (available for $9); category 25, Artist of the Year; category 26, Song of the Year; and category 27, Album of the Year. You could also vote in category 4, Best Jazz or Blues Album, for Peter Sprague Plays the Beatles – Day Tripper, featuring vocals by Rebecca Jade, which one can download for $10.
Rebecca ALSO appears in a musical called RESPECT about the great music of the female singers of the 1960s at Lamb’s Player Theater in San Diego through April 9. (Picture above.)
Darby Penney was someone I’ve known for over 30 years. I have no idea where or when I met her. Inevitably, it involved some social justice activity. And if Darby was expending energy on it, it was almost certainly worth pursuing. The action would involve “empowerment, inclusion, rights, and other topics,” as this 2007 bio describes.
She was mentioned, only in passing, once in this blog. It involved the abandoned suitcases of the people who had resided at the Willard Asylum in Ovid, NY in Seneca County.
I wrote, “I remember a large article in Metroland about the New York State Museum’s 2004 exhibit ‘Lost Cases, Recovered Lives: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic’, curated by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny.” She was extremely excited about that project.
Importantly, Darby was a librarian, and she used her many skills in the most amazing manner. She was SO impressive.
Sometimes, I get behind in reading the daily newspaper. So it wasn’t until October 30 when I read the lengthy obituary in the October 21 newspaper, referring to her October 11 death. I was gobsmacked.
You should read the obit, as it is amazing as she was. Primarily, she was “a long-time activist in the movement to protect the human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.”
Three score and eight
I was in shock because I figured that Darby would be one of those insistent people in her 70s and 80s and maybe 90s causing what the late John Lewis called “good trouble.” But she was 68, my age.
The last time I talked with her was in the first months of the pandemic, in the spring or summer of 2020. I called Darby on the telephone to check how she was doing. She was still grieving the death of her husband of 30 years, Kenneth Denberg.
That said, she still had a gritty optimism about making a difference. But she was no Pollyanna. She indeed had a “fiery outspoken nature.” Yet, she could be very funny, occasionally poking gently at my expense. You can do that with your friends.
So I didn’t even know she was sick. I’m sorry for my sake more than hers. For I’m sure she had a coterie of folks caring for her. And I’m unsurprised that she was cremated because she wouldn’t have wanted a frilly casket. I hope to attend the memorial service when it takes place.
His family held the funeral for my father-in-law, Dick Powell on May 22, 2021. It was precisely 13 months after he died. Ah, death in the time of COVID, even non-COVID-related death.
The planning meetings, of course, were on ZOOM among my MIL, one of her sons and his family, my wife, my MIL’s pastor, and me. Dick had jotted down notes in his own hand from months before he got sick. His specific plans involved his four grandkids singing a specific song together, but that was requested pre-pandemic. The choir recorded the song, remotely, and other hymns as well.
Who’ll speak? Someone from his church, a few people from the extended family, and a few from the immediate family. My wife would certainly cite her favorite scripture, Micah 6:8, which is a motto of Dick’s church, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
At the end of the service, there was a committal to the columbarium, a word I’m certain I’ve never written before in my life.
The immediate family mentioned, plus my daughter was at the church in person with the pastor, the organist at a distance, and one techie, likewise remote, and all fully vaccinated. Everyone else – the church members, the rest of the friends and family – was invited to participate via ZOOM.
Meanwhile, one family member had worked on the obituary for Dick Powell. If you think writing it a year after someone’s death would be easier, you might be thinking incorrectly. Noting all of his activities and accomplishments had the effect of dredging up some of the feelings of loss, but also of pride.
There are many schools of thought about what’s appropriate content in an obit. Having read thousands – I love a good one – I’m rather non-prescriptive about them. Except that I do like the listing of the familial connections, which will be useful for future generations of genealogists.
In general, waiting to hold the funeral and write the obit a year later than normal created a case of dolore interrumpitur, grief interrupted. And that was undoubtedly enhanced by a certain family estrangement; I shan’t dwell upon that here.
Arthur wrote regarding the death of his husband a year and a half ago. It is pretty much what I realized some months after my father’s death over 20 years ago. “The thing about profound grief is that it’s not linear, and it has no timeline. How many times have I said that now?” Not linear; I’ve said that a LOT.
Writing your own obituary? First of all, I should note that I’m not in imminent danger of dying. As far as I know. I suppose I could be mistaken. In any case, I’m betting against living another six decades.
The idea of writing my obit appeals to me. It’s mostly because I recognize that the task can be onerous. Writing it yourself alleviates the stress of your family and friends having to take on the task. Of course, you also have to face up to your accomplishments. You might say, as Peggy Lee did, “Is that all there is?” Conversely, you might be forced to consolidate the bullet points. That racquetball trophy I won in 1989 won’t make MY list.
I love a good obituary. It’s like any compelling story. I remember leafing through The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells: A Celebration of Unusual Lives by Marvin Siegel. Where this happened, I don’t remember, but it was several years ago. Thrift Books reviews speak to me.
“Rather than an ode to death, this book cherishes lives once lived by all kinds of people. Whether brilliant or simple, rich or poor, actions great or discreet, each of the people written about contributed to society in a meaningful (and often surprising) way.”
“You wouldn’t think a book of obituaries would be entertaining, but it is when the obits are well-written and celebrate the lives and characters of the 100+ people found in this collection. The subjects are most often unknown to the majority of us, but the various authors (including well-known NYT obituary author Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.) humanize each subject and inspire you to contemplate your own life.” Yeah, that.
Then there was an October 15 commentary in the Albany Times Union. “On the obituary pages, reflections of lives fully lived” was written by Karl Felsen, a local retired public relations executive. His daughter, in the time of COVID, had asked Karl and his wife to write their own obits. “If you have a favorite picture, include it.”
Felsen quotes poet Jim Harrison. “Death steals everything except our stories.” He started perusing the longest obituaries in the TU. Charles P. Rougle lived a fascinating life “that ran from Montana to Moscow, from Sweden to Slovenia. A translator and expert in my many languages, a woodworker sand cello player on the side.” Someone Felsen wished he had met.
Of the collection of obituaries that he read, “They were here. They lived. They mattered.” So Felsen’s going to write his own obit. “It’ll be long, celebratory, and mostly true.” He’s “come to the conclusion that crafting your own final story is one way to stay busy living.”
I’m inclined to do this. Maybe not next week, or next month, but probably in the next year. Have any of you done this? Any pointers? This could be an interesting posthumous “ego trip.”
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