About the Obituary Guide

The Obituary Guide has been gelling in the back of mind for some time. I am like many others who enjoy reading obituaries. They can be informative and are often inspiring. The obituaries of famous individuals are fascinating as they illuminate not only one life, but also the era in which that person lived. I also enjoy reading the paid obituaries in the classifieds, written by the families themselves, revealing the wonder of an ordinary life.

I have been an avid newspaper reader since my first paid job: delivering the Winnipeg Free Press as a teenager. I read the beginnings of the articles on the front page as I walked up to the doors of my customers. When I got home, I read the rest of the stories – and I was hooked. The first obituary I remember was of Winston Churchill, which I read as I lugged my newspapers through the snow in January, 1965.

During my life since, writing has been a constant theme. I have written newspaper columns on a free-lance basis, as well as news releases, handbooks, and reports as part of other employment. (See my Citizen Active column in the Brandon Sun, and my Live Well, Do Good website.)

Many family obituaries, I've noticed, are often quite inadequate. And no wonder, considering they are usually composed in a hurry. I remember when my family wrote the obituary for my father a few years ago. After collecting our initial ideas, my sister and I picked up our brother at the Winnipeg airport. The three of us then completed the final revision of the obituary in the lobby of the Free Press building, moments before the paper's deadline.

In 2006, I saw an obituary that was to become the trigger for this website. In the paper was an obituary for “John,” a man with whom I had worked for a number of years. John’s obituary was especially bad. Basic facts, like the date of death, were missing. Many details of his life were incorrect. Our workplace – as well as another where he had worked for 20 years – were omitted entirely. There was no mention of hobbies or other interests that would have brought the text to life. At the funeral, this obituary – errors and all – was read aloud verbatim as part of the eulogy.

At the same time, I was experiencing one of those events that makes life (and – later – an obituary!) more interesting. The recycling program where I had worked as General Manager for a number of years had just closed. I found myself looking for new opportunities. Perhaps I could turn some of my attention to helping those who were faced with writing an obituary, or who wanted to get a head start on their own?

I intentionally read many more obituaries and made notes about them, as well as researched books, websites, and other sources. I compiled a number of tips, suggestions, questions, pitfalls, and resources.

The result is this website, which went online in August, 2007. I hope you find this website informative. You can help other web visitors by contacting me with your ideas and additional suggestions.

- David McConkey, Brandon, Manitoba


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