Q. One of my business partners just died, and I’d like to run an In Memoriam ad in the newspaper and an industry trade magazine. What is a suitable In Memoriam message? I’ve never written one before.
Few of us have. Yet there are occasions in business or professional life when an In Memoriam ad or notice is appropriate to acknowledge the death of a principal, employee, colleague, customer or client, supplier or consultant and honor his/her memory in public. Virtually every issue of my own professional magazine contains one or more In Memoriams. You can choose from a number of approaches, depending on how formal or expressive you want to be. The simplest and easiest format is a bordered “box” headed “In Memoriam” or “In Memory of” or “In Loving Memory” and followed by the deceased’s name and dates of birth and death, as in:
Peter J. Mitchell
The name of your firm, company, or organization would appear at the bottom of the ad. I think it’s hard to beat the quiet dignity of that model. But if it seems too stark to you, you can add words like “Rest in Peace” above or below. Another option is "Burns & Brackett mourns the death of its founder John H. Roth" or similarly "Burns & Brackett announces the passing of its founder John H. Roth."
Some ads also include a line or two descriptive of (or relevant to) the deceased, such as “Beloved partner, friend and humanitarian” or “Colleague, friend and leader.” In some cases the person’s title, such as “President and Co-founder of Smith & Co.,” is included, as well.
If applicable, you can also mention a special accomplishment, such as “He changed an industry,” or “He made the world a better place.” A relevant quote can speak to the spirit or character of the person, as in “He always did the right thing.” You might choose a line or more of poetry. Or in some cases, the deceased’s own words can be powerful. For example, the late Steve Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Of course, not every deceased has spouted memorable statements. And that’s what books of quotations are for.
Be aware that rates, requirements and deadlines for In Memoriams vary from one publication to another. Check with the newspaper and magazine you have in mind.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes a.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a new blog for bereaved spouses and partners.