I love a great sense of humor no matter what its source. That includes obituaries. Joe O’Connor, a great American from Marietta, shared with me a couple of eulogies he thought I might enjoy reading. I did, and I deemed them too good not to pass along — edited for length but preserving their spirit.
According to the obit of O’Connor’s close friend, Gary Edwin Sutton of La Jolla, California, he was “a troublemaker and a man full of integrity, class clown and a brilliant businessman, ruthless when crossed and a generous advisor to everyone who leaned on him, a risk-taking adventurer and a mushy family man, a C student and a lifelong learner, a healthy fitness buff and a wine lover, a small-town farm boy and a big city sophisticate.
“Always a writer at heart, Gary authored numerous business and fiction books, some of which were actually published by legitimate publishing houses (all are available on Amazon, but buyer beware!) He also ran many columns and op-ed pieces in publications ranging from the local fish wrapper to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. One column helped a judge decide to overturn a jury verdict. Another caused a CIA operative to show up on his doorstop. Death threats and nasty letters to the editor followed several pieces. At least that’s what he claimed — Gary was never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
“Despite loving being the center of attention, Gary did not want to have a funeral or memorial service. We are debating about looking skyward, saying ‘You are not the boss of us!’ and going against his wishes, but plans are still to be determined. Gary was suspicious of most charities, so there’s no need to make a donation in his name. If you wish to honor him, please spend time with your precious families and realize that you may not have as many tomorrows as you’d like.”
And then there is this tribute to Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark of Richmond, Virginia, “who had tired of reading obituaries noting others’ courageous battles with this or that disease, (and) wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18.
“True to Fred’s personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look after his wife and kids. He loved his family.
“Fred’s back straightened and chest puffed out when he heard ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ and his eyes teared when he heard ‘Amazing Grace.’ Always an interested observer of politics and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were ‘throw the bums out and don’t elect lawyers’ (though it seems to make little difference).
“During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life-long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon.
“He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish, which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party.
“No funeral or service is planned. However, a party will be held to celebrate Fred’s life. Fred’s ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River, where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred’s friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, ‘Fred who?’”
If our obituaries were truthful, what would they say about us? Mine would probably state: “He took himself much too seriously and bored to tears those around him, but we didn’t have the heart to tell him while he was here.” Not these two guys. It is obvious they marched to their own drums and enjoyed every step of the parade as did those who had the privilege of watching them pass by. Their tributes are as loving as they are irreverent.
After reading them, I regret I never got to meet Gary Edwin Sutton or Frederic Arthur Clark. I think I would have liked them both. I certainly liked their style. May they rest in peace wherever they are. They’ve earned it.
Contact Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; and online at dickyarbrough.com or facebook.com/dickyarb.