Something for which the Boston Globe deserves a lot of credit is that it treats local obituaries with the seriousness they deserve. I especially like the way its obits shine a spotlight on the lives of ordinary people, who often turn out to be not ordinary in the least.
Today the Globe’s Bryan Marquard tells us about the life of Stella May Brown Weaco, a lovely soul of dubious sanity who died on Dec. 31 after many years of homelessness, which ended only after she became ill. Marquard writes:
Obituaries usually confer honorifics, but what title could capture Stella? Given occasionally to delusions, she offered no clear explanation of how she acquired the name Weaco, which is not on her birth certificate. Was she married or a mother? Workers at Women’s Lunch Place hope a relative will read this and inquire about Stella.
Born in Coffeeville, a small Mississippi town some 90 miles south of Tennessee, she spoke of having lived in Memphis. She also said she was born in Jerusalem, was a member of the Rockefeller family, “and was part of a very select group,” [Boston Health Care for the Homeless president Jim] O’Connell said. “And I think that last part was true.
“Among the homeless, he said, “she was an aristocrat.”
I tell my students that obituaries are the most important part of a newspaper, at least for friends and family members. But telling isn’t the same as showing, which Marquard does on a regular basis.
More: Mike Stucka rightly notes that Steve Landwehr of the Salem News has been performing similar journalistic artistry with obits.