They each had a clear vocation and made a mark and I miss them and hate to delete them from my phone.
When I was 20, I dropped out of college and got a job with a morning newspaper whose city editor Mr. Walt Streightiff put me to work writing obituaries of ordinary men and women whose deaths were not considered newsworthy. Other reporters handled crime, natural disasters, City Hall, sports, fatal accidents, high finance, visiting celebrities, and what was called “human interest,” meaning heartwarming stories, usually involving children. I was in charge of ordinary cold death.
Mr. Streightiff liked his obituaries straight — basic facts, plus the deceased’s education, professional achievements, church and club memberships, survivors, and funeral arrangements. I liked to add interesting detail — the man who, until he was 70, swam across White Bear Lake every summer, the woman whose potato salad was envied by others, the woman who could look at a sentence and speak it backward quickly and perfectly, the man with the enormous model-train layout filling his basement. Some of these Mr. Streightiff sniffed at but tolerated, others he crossed out.
That was 55 years ago and he was in his 50s and a chain smoker, so I suppose he is gone now. If I were writing his obit, I’d mention his short bristly hair, his starched white shirt and suspenders, his high-top leather shoes and armbands, and his commanding presence at the end of the horseshoe city desk, the way he barked out your last name, how…Read More