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Writing An Obituary

What is an obituary?

More than merely a "good-bye" to the deceased, this is a farewell which can, in chronological order, detail the life of the deceased. An obituary also serves to notify the public that an individual has passed away and the funeral service details that are to take place. An obituary's length may be somewhat dictated by the space available in the newspaper where it is to appear. Your funeral director can help if you have questions about length.

Remember: The obituary should appear in print a few days prior to the memorial service. However, it is understandable that in some cases this may not be possible.

What to include?

Naturally, it is important that the full name, along with the location and date of passing, is included so that there is no confusion over whom has died. You may wish to consider placing a photograph with the text. Usually, a newspaper charges extra if you are thinking of publishing a photograph. If you wish, mention where the deceased resided. This will normally only include the street, city and state. The street number is not normally included for security reasons.

In a concise manner, write about the significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include the schools he or she attended and any degrees attained. You may also wish to include any of the deceased's significant employment history, military or community service, hobbies or other significant accomplishments or interests of the deceased.

Survivors

It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Parents
  • Spouse and children
  • Adopted children
  • Half & step children
  • Siblings
  • Half- & step-siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren, great-grandchildren

The surviving relatives listed above may be listed by name. You can choose not to mention others by name, but include them in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the obituary may mention that the deceased had "five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews," etc. Exceptions to the above rule can be made if, for example, the deceased only had one grandchild or a nephew who was the only person living in the newspaper's distribution area. These exceptions are obviously made on a case-by-case basis.

Also, anyone listed as a special friend or companion is not normally included amongst the list of survivors unless the deceased's blood relatives request that it be so. The traditional purpose of the obituary is to list survivors either related through the bloodline or marriage.

At this point, it is appropriate to list the details of the time and location of any funeral services.  Such details may include the funeral or memorial service, viewing or visitation hours, and burial when applicable.

Do's & Don'ts

If you don't know where to start, do read other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching an obituary may be.

Do use such terms as "visitation will be from" or "friends may call at the funeral home from". 

We suggest you don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers" when memorial donations are to be requested. Instead, we suggest the following wording: "Memorial donations may be made to [name of charity or organization]..."

Do consider sending the obituary to newspapers in other cities (e.g., to a town where the deceased may have resided previously).  Please know that most newspapers outside the Chenango County area charge considerably higher for publishing obituaries.

Do obtain copies of the obituary to send to distant relatives and friends.

Final Considerations

It is a good idea to have another family member verify the information contained in the obituary before it is published. Also, newspapers generally require obituaries to be submitted by a funeral home.  Few accept obituary submissions from individuals.  This is to ensure that an obituary is being submitted by the family member who has the authority over the funeral service.

Depending on what a newspaper charges for publishing the obituary, it might not always be feasible to mention everything mentioned in these guidelines. Use your discretion, and be sure not to put yourself under any financial hardship. Your loved one would understand.

Also, your funeral director at the Wilson Funeral Home is always prepared to draft an obituary if desired, and can review any obituary you draft and provide feedback or guidance if needed.

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Obituaries & Tributes

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607-336-3993 Wilson Funeral Home
68 South Broad Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Email: wilsonfhny@gmail.com
607-336-3993 Wilson Funeral Home
68 South Broad Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Email: wilsonfhny@gmail.com
607-336-3993 Wilson Funeral Home
68 South Broad Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Email: wilsonfhny@gmail.com
607-336-3993 Wilson Funeral Home
68 South Broad Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Email: wilsonfhny@gmail.com
607-336-3993 Wilson Funeral Home
68 South Broad Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Email: wilsonfhny@gmail.com