I read the newspaper obituaries. I have been an ordained clergyman in eight parishes, so I know Catholic people from the region between Montgomery County down through mid-St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Just today, I found out through the Washington Post that Donald Baughmann passed (husband to parishioner in Rockville). I also heard that Marty Novak died (Laurel member), so I will already know it by Saturday morning paper’s notice.
I also know that in the past week a former classmate of mine’s (SPX School) mother died (Mrs. Jones), and a woman I knew while growing up in Bowie also died (Mary Conroy). She was in city and state politics, along with her husband, and knew my parents through that. I read Mary’s obit in the Post this week. It recognized her 20 years in Md.’s House of Delegates.
Sometimes I note a few things in the obits. There are stories being told there. This week they included quick stories of some fascinating women. In the Post paper this week I saw that an actress died that I have seen a few times on stage (Tana Hicken). It said she had “received 20 nominations for Helen Hayes awards in her life of 70 years, with a wide range of characters played.” I also read that Pittsburgh’s 1st female mayor passed at 96. 26 years ago Sophie Masloff won the vote as a folksy Jewish grandmother figure mayor, picked to lead a city out of a long slump. I was amazed to read that Pittsburgh’s first female mayor “was born to impoverished Romanian immigrants, with a dad who died when she was 2, and under a mom who scraped a living out of rolling cigars in a factory, and who had never learned English.” As a young woman, Sophie “worked in Allegheny County government jobs for four decades, as such did her husband Jack, and it led all the way to becoming Mayor of the big city.
I also read that Bowie’s Jamie Paterson died at 84. What was notable of this homemaker? Her grandfather was the Confederate General James Longstreet. I also read that Bowie’s Mary Smith, a D.C. teacher in her life, passed at 88. She was in public schools for 34 years. Notable to me was that she kept her Catholic membership going at St. Gabriel’s parish in NW DC, where she evidently was baptized long ago as baby Mary Dorsey.
These all were quick but informative stories of some interesting women whom God has blessed the earth in our area.
I also learned from Alan Postlethwaite’s obit (8-17)that he was a native of England but eventually got a job in the Smithsonian’s Conservation Unit, due to his learnedness as a metallurgical scientist. I found out that the Smithsonian was first begun and funded by an Englishman named Smithson. In the close of the obit, I wondered how this museum official ended up being, in his retirement, “a volunteer in President Bill Clinton’s White House.”
In a couple of days our own parishioner Theresa Proctor will have her obit in the paper. Theresa lived on Queen Anne Rd. for the past 57 years, and was married to “Mott” who predeceased her a few years ago here (I did his funeral.) She had been faithful to Mass through her life, and she was active in our parish, even in its founding days, even helping to keep our parish rectory cleaned. She helped social activities in the parish, too. Theresa lived beforehand on Church Road when that area belonged to Holy Family Mitchellville parish. In our becoming a parish (as a mission from Holy Family), Theresa helped us get the new members to St. Edward the Confessor, even when we just met in a school. Her wake and funeral are on Thursday morning, Aug. 29th at St. Edward. Her enthusiasm and smile and faith will be missed.
I had heard that another local (Anne Arundal County) priest had written some thoughts on obituaries…
Here’s what he said. He comically noted that the reading of obituaries is an Irish thing of looking and being sure that you are not listedin them, so that you can celebrate that you have another day to live well in this world! Obituary reading is his “racing form so that he’ll know who out ran him to heaven that day.”
One other comedian quips: “What’s up with obituaries? They now cost you an arm and a leg! The newspaper used to publish your passing for free. Now it costs you a lot of money just to inform others you are going six feet under. It hardly leaves your kin to cover the rest of the funeral bills. Ah–but you should just send them to 777 Pearly Gates, attention to St. Peter. He’ll cover you for the rest.”
Clive the Human Cannonball says he won’t need a funeral Mass. “Whenever the cannon shot does miss the target,” he says, “you can just go get a shovel and bury me where I have fatefully landed. It is probably where God intended for me to lay! Call it fate.”