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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Living Faith
10/31/2013 1:41:00 PM
How to write an obituary
Catholic Sentinel photo
The Catholic Sentinel and other news organizations offer forms to help you write a complete obituary — even online.
Catholic Sentinel photo
The Catholic Sentinel and other news organizations offer forms to help you write a complete obituary — even online.

Clarice Keating
Of the Catholic Sentinel

After roaming the earth for decades, a person will have touched many lives. That’s why, when a family member dies, it’s important to notify others who knew that person. Many people do this by submitting an obituary to local newspapers, which are typically published in print and online. The Catholic Sentinel newspaper includes parochial schools and parish affiliations so former classmates and church friends can obtain service information.

Some people choose to write their own obituaries: That’s one more task that grieving family members won’t have to worry about. Plus you can ensure dates and details will be accurate (so long as you can recall them yourself).

Funeral service providers also will assist with the process.

Bill Burns, a director at Riverview Abbey Funeral Home, gives families a form so they can pick the information they would like to have included in their relative’s obituary, such as educational accomplishments, work history, civic memberships and survivors.

Burns helps guide the process.

“I ask the family to talk about their parent, brother, sister, child or relative,” he said. “I ask questions and write down the information they give me. As they are talking, I ask them if they would like the information included in the obituary.”

Afterward, he crafts the details into an obituary and works directly with the newspapers where it will be published.

For those who choose to write the obituary on their own, here are a few tips:

Learn the guidelines

Many newspapers, like the Catholic Sentinel, have editorial guidelines that dictate which information goes into an obituary, as well as the length of the obituary. If you’re concerned about maintaining editorial control, look on the newspaper’s website or use other obituaries printed in the publication as a guideline. If you would like the obituary to look different or include additional information, contact the advertising department to find out the cost of ad space. Also, find out how the publication prefers you send the obituary. Email is ideal, but most will accept obituaries in any form – even handwritten, for those who do not have access to a computer.

At the Catholic Sentinel, obituaries should be submitted to: [email protected]

Include the proper facts

When the Catholic Sentinel receives obituaries, some commonly omitted details include maiden names, former parish affiliations, and parochial school attendance. These details are helpful for old friends and former classmates who see the obituary.

Review before you send

Proofread the obituary to be sure of accurate spelling for all survivors’ names and that, in big families, no one has been left out. Double check dates. The obituary will be a family keepsake for many years, so accuracy is very important.

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