Great obits, tribute: The Scoop on obit author Amanda Lewis

March 13, 2013

The Scoop, a blog of the Dallas Morning News, followed up on that great obit of Harry Stamps.  Reporter Eric Aasen tracked down Amanda Lewis, Stamps’s daughter, and the author of his obituary, which the Biloxi Sun-Herald judge “best ever.”

Harry Stamps and his daughter, Amanda Lewis

Harry Stamps with his daughter, Amanda Lewis, at her wedding in Dallas. Lewis wrote the great obituary for her father published last week in the Biloxi Sun-Herald. Photo from Amanda Lewis, via The Scoop

“He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.”

Lewis tells The News she started writing the obituary Thursday morning, when she began the long drive from Dallas to Mississippi. She says her mother had given her some highlights, some bullet points in order to write the standard small-print farewell. But that’s not the kind of obituary she wanted to write.

“I don’t understand why people do a résumé for an obituary,” says Lewis. “It never captures the spirit of the person. My dad had such a big spirit. He had such a big personality. And I didn’t think listing where he went to college and his résumé would do him justice. I liked the idea of setting it up as kind of a contrast where at first you think it’ll be a pretentious obituary — everyone’s great when they die in an obituary — and then I tried to use what would have been his sense of humor to describe my dad. And clearly it worked. I was pleased with it.”

So was everyone else.

Aasen had a couple of great photos to add  (and it ran in this morning’s edition of the newspaper, too).

My father told the story of attending the funeral for a woman who had a bit of a checkered past, as he would euphemistically tell us, and who did not get along with everyone.  He said the pastor, delivering a eulogy, talked of fine Italian tapestries, famous for brilliant colors and even silver and gold used as thread.  “In every fine Italian tapestry, there are black threads woven in, to contrast with the silver and gold,” the pastor said.  “And so it was with the life of this woman.”

Some tributes to the departed capture their spirit — think of Teddy Kennedy quoting  a paraphrase of Bernard  Shaw at the funeral of his brother Robert.  Tributes provide deep, lasting memories, or change events on their own, sometimes.

Harry Stamps’s obit was a great oneI’ve posted two others that I think produced more smiles than tears, and I know there are other obituaries out there that are worthy of reading, spreading the news about, and perhaps, emulation.   Know of any?


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