Be My Valentine: Love and Romance in Obituaries

Among the survivors, obituaries usually mention the spouse, whether the “devoted wife,” “adoring husband,” “the loyal husband” or the “love of his/her life.” Occasionally, though, careful obituary readers will find poignant “valentines” or little love stories almost buried in the litany of jobs, accomplishments and hobbies.


It’s always fun to happen upon these, as they help to paint a more-complete picture of how a relationship began or how a couple bonded and flourished over the years.

Even just a hint of romance or intrigue or courtship that is revealed adds a little sweet perspective to a departure. Just this past weekend, there was a lovely obituary in The New York Times that included this gem:


At the 1988 New Jersey Waterfront Marathon, George, who had met her only the day before at a marathon expo, and who was irrevocably love-struck, ran through the crowded field of a race for which he had not registered until he found her. They ran the remaining 21 miles together, and they married the next year. Shay, 66


Here are a few others that have recently brought a smile to my face:


Deb met her best friend and husband, Dan, while working at Sebago Technics in Westbrook, introduced by a friend and co-worker who also happened to be one of Dan’s roommates. At that time, the pair enjoyed listening to Lyle Lovett, Carly Simon, Van Morrison, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot – who they saw at their first concert together. They recently celebrated their 24th anniversary, further bonded as a team in the battle against cancer diagnosed in February 2011. Deb, 61


Martha was a graduate of Wesleyan College. In 1942 while on a double date to a swimming meet at Wesleyan, Martha met Charles, an astute Georgia Tech grad and rising star at Trust Company Bank, who knew a good thing when he saw one so he asked Martha for a date. Charlie was organizing a new anti-aircraft battalion at Ft. Totten, N.Y., so in the imperturbable manner in which she lived her life, Martha accepted the fact that Charlie would soon be shipped overseas. Charlie's newly-wed brother invited Martha to New York for a visit; in his brother's New York apartment, Charlie proposed. Due to the war and their seven-year age difference, the couple was eager to start a family. They welcomed Charles IIII in 1943 before Charlie left the United States for overseas duty. Five more children followed, the sixth born Dec. 9, 1963, when Martha was 45 and the love of her life was six weeks away from the massive heart attack which claimed him. Martha, 95


In 1944, a young hard-hat engineer named Ode Carlisle came into the typing pool and swept Gloria off her feet and vice versa. This was challenging as Gloria already had several marriage proposals. Ode and Gloria married in 1946 in Bunkie, La. And had been married for 65 years at the time of Ode’s death in 2011. Gloria, 91


At a Sunday afternoon jam session of local musicians in the fall of 1962, he was introduced to Jane, a vocalist with the Rhythm Masters. They were married Feb. 8, 1963, and recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Doug, 81, Georgia


His greatest, most precious victory was a never-ending love affair with his wife and best friend of 44 years. Jack, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, 80

The 19-year-old beauty obtained her degree in biology with a math minor from the University of Alabama and won a number of academic awards including the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa cup. Later that year Jeannette was introduced to Fred by Fred’s nephew, David. David and Jeannette had been confirmed together at Temple Beth el in Birmingham. Jeannette commenced teaching high school biology in Birmingham at age 19. In June 1938 Fred and Jeannette travelled on the train to Baltimore and took a cab directly to the hospital room of Fred’s father. Because of Jewish traditions, if he had died, the young couple would have been prohibited from marrying for 12 months. He gave the couple his blessing and a wedding was arranged including eight boys brought to the hospital to make up a minyan – required for certain religious obligations – for the ceremony. Jeannette, 96

Florence was married for 62 years until Bob’s death in 2012. Florence and Bob could be seen most nights taking an after-dinner walk through town holding hands. Florence, 84


She was always noted for her beauty, bright spirit and generosity. She married Randolph in 1939 and their inspirational and continuing romance was celebrated on their recent 70th wedding anniversary. Margaret, 94

I hope when the time comes that someone will remember to include in my obituary the ongoing “valentine” I’ve enjoyed sharing about my husband, Bo Holland:

After our first date – which was nice enough – it was another 20 years (and other marriages) before we went out again. After spending four seasons together, we eloped and married in Battery Park in Charleston, S.C. — 25 years ago.

***

Susan Soper is the founder and author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she was formerly the Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief" shortly after her father died. Susan lives in Atlanta with her husband. More info on Facebook and at www.obitkit.com.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Shauri

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