Most people know what basic information to include in a good obituary: birth and death dates, cause of death, education, career, passions and hobbies, personality traits, unusual skills or interests.

But there is so much more to a person’s full life that will make people remember reading about them. Those are the gems that are unpredictable, quirky, astonishing – the things you might have liked talking about to them.

Almost daily, I come across things in printed obits that make me say “wow” and prompt me to read out loud to whomever is nearby. Here are a few recent ones that have made me smile and that remind me of the range of things that are so worth including in the retelling of a person’s story. If and when you have that task to do, perhaps these will inspire you, too.

Boone was preceded in death by her parents and Elvis Presley…She is survived by her children, her three sisters, nieces and nephews as well as her favorite tennis professional Roger Federer, and her favorite actor, Robert Redford.

Last spring, only months before turning 90, Ruth auditioned for a Senior Idol show in Fort Lauderdale. Her son selected some of her show gowns from the closet, had them altered, arranged for nail and hair appointment and turned her loose. She was one of 12 selected from 150 senior citizens to perform. … Not only did she receive a standing ovation, she was runner-up for second place. It was her final performance.

Tim inherited a love of gambling from his mother and enthusiastically “supported” the Hope Scholarship by purchasing lottery tickets.

Wesley was not an ordinary executive…His sales methods endeared him to his clients, as he hosted them as major sports events. He will be remembered as the host of clients at the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Rose Bowl, the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby.

Richard designed and supervised building a school in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti, using shipping containers for the construction. He was honored at the school’s ribbon cutting in March. The 53 elementary school children surprised him by signing the Haiti national anthem in French and the national anthem in English.

Will was the recipient of many second chances and he strongly believed he was protected by a higher power…He dedicated his business to providing refuge to others wanting their own second chance. He was eager and enthusiastic to hire those also needing a leg up and had become a significant mentor in the recovery community.

Vera’s father told her to drive down to the crossroads to get something for him from the store. She did, despite the fact that she was only 12 years old.

Late in life, Fran wrote two delightful autobiographical books: Waiting for the Banana Peel and French Beds I’ve Slept in (and Some I Wish I Hadn’t).

Ann loved to fish and developed a great interest in sharks. She saw Jaws a dozen times and it remained her favorite movie.

At age 50, Vera learned to water ski and at 95 she even rode a camel.

Jay’s passions for business, music and culture shaped his life and inspired his early and lifelong success. His love of rock and roll at age 17 prompted him to form Galaxy Promotions which booked a number of rock concerts at the Hammond (Indiana) Civic Center in the early 1960s. Chuck Berry came to the house for payment after performing one night and was no doubt surprised to learn that it was a teenager who booked his concert.

Robert died in stunning perfect peace within himself and with the universe. Just before he passed away, his youngest granddaughter called him. To allay her fears, Bob sang in that smooth Tony Bennett voice of his an old standard made famous by Billie Holliday: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby.” That was Bob. He was all about timing, memory, love and spreading joy.”


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.

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