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Obituaries in an Age of Divorce

 

SUSAN writes:

I just came across the short book — pamphlet really — entitled Widow With a Husband: An Alzheimer’s Experience  (2008) by Kathleen Ryan. The author was married to George Blaufuss, Jr. for nineteen years, from 1988 until his death at age ninety-two in 2007. He was  first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999.

The obituary for Mr. Blaufuss in the Napa Register mentions that he was predeceased by a daughter, Gail, and survived by a son, George Blaufuss III, along with two step-sons, three step-daughters, and their various descendants. 

Nowhere does the article mention his first marriage to the mother of his children.  One can infer from the omission that the marriage ended in divorce rather than death.

This seems all too common in current obituaries in which the ex-wife–no matter how many children she has had with her husband and how long the marriage lasted–is erased from the record and becomes a non-person.

I once contacted the editor of a local newspaper about an obituary in which the deceased’s former spouse–the mother of his children– had been similarly “disappeared”; the editor replied that that was the way the obituary writer (the man’s current girlfriend in this case) had wanted it.

It seems dishonest to ignore so important a part of someone’s history: an offense against truth, if you will. It is also, of course disrespectful to the former wife and to their children.

Laura writes:

Interesting. And the same is true of obituaries which do not mention a woman’s first  husband.

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