April 25, 2004: Headlines: COS - Russia: Obituaries: The Hawk Eye: Dave Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Russia: Peace Corps Russia : The Peace Corps in Russia: April 25, 2004: Headlines: COS - Russia: Obituaries: The Hawk Eye: Dave Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-69-95.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.69.95) on Sunday, April 25, 2004 - 1:27 pm: Edit Post

Dave Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia

Dave Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia

Dave Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia

The late great we

A self–written obituary can bring life's goals into focus.

By ANDRE MOUCHARD

The Orange County Register

We live, so to speak, in an age of the self–written obituary.

"I did it to beat the odds," says Anita Alvarez, 62, an Irvine, Calif., grandmother who wrote her own obituary six years ago, when she was in the midst of battling breast cancer.

"Mine is still in a drawer."

It's not usually such a fatalistic (and in Alvarez's case, lucky) exercise.

The most common authors of personal obits are healthy people who can't override their desire to organize and control every detail of their lives, or those who sense death hanging out, having a smoke at the end of the bed.

And, in all cases, the numbers are unknown. Obituary editors and others who care about the topic simply describe do–it–yourself obits as a huge, undeniable trend, the Jessica Simpson of writing adventures.

"I hear about it. It's not what I'm interested in. But it's been talked about (among obituary writers) for a few years now," says Stephen Miller, who writes obits about the famous, semi–famous and infamous for the New York Sun.

"We do see some self–written obits. I'm not saying they're no good, but ..."

Still, if obits have become as do–it–yourself–able as plumbing or picking stocks or medical diagnostics, then the act of summarizing your life in print surely must have obliterated the trepidation about the occasion of the obit.

For many, perhaps millions of self–actualized obituary authors, there must no longer be a strong fear of ... well, you know.

"He was the longest–serving mayor in Northampton's 350–year history ..." from the obituary of the very much alive Dave Musante.

"Death? It isn't really something I'm thinking much about."

Dave Musante isn't thrilled with this topic. He's a big guy, a bit sweaty from yard work, and when he gives you a grumpy stare, it's not pleasant.

This isn't his usual tone. The retiree is chatty, eager to swap ideas about everything from politics to milking a cow. He was a longtime mayor of a medium–sized town in Massachusetts. He's run for office many times, and won more than he's lost. He's had adult beverages with people you've heard of. He's got stories.

But he is 72. A year back, he had an artery unclogged. And, while he feels good these days, he's also a practical sort. Musante — ex–mayor, ex–baseball umpire, ex–business consultant, a guy who can't totally rule out being ambassador to Kyrgyzstan — admits to being at one of those awkward stages of life.

He can study until he drops in the classes he loves at Cal State Fullerton. He can organize an ushering program for the school's vaunted baseball team, another passion. He can even organize a college speech by his old friend and former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

But Musante can't prevent death from being a pain in his rear.

"You do shorter–range planning at my age," he said. "That's the difference."

And writing his own obituary — has he planned for that?

"OK, I'll do it," he says finally, after gentle prodding.

He still doesn't seem thrilled.

"Known as Northampton's 'Walking Mayor,' for his daily two–mile strides around the city ... he is generally credited for the renaissance of the city's historic downtown."

That's the truth. Musante was asked to participate in a story about writing your own obituary.

See, the trend of people penning their own obits is valid enough. A lot of people have done it, and many more (baby boomers almost certainly will embrace the self–written obit and then, as their generation fades, probably claim to have invented it) figure to do so in the future.

On its own, the rise of self–written obits is a fairly interesting commentary about our culture.

Maybe we're finally comfortable with death. Maybe we don't trust reporters or funeral directors to summarize our life tales. Maybe we're just too darn special, each and every one of us, and we all deserve a full–blown obituary with tears and laughter and possibly (if written online) a harp soundtrack.

Or, cynically, maybe we don't care if our last public statement is fact, fiction or some mixture of the two.

But none of it is as interesting as the trenches. When one sits at a recent vintage, stylishly white laptop to tap out the message about yourself that will, in fact, be the last "last word," what goes through your mind?

Fear is involved, yes?

"Not at all."

"Still attracted to opportunities for service, Musante and his wife, Janet McNeill, joined the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Russia."

It's been a week, and Musante has completed his obituary assignment.

It's on the long side for a publishable obituary, roughly 2 1/2 typewritten pages. But Musante was a politician, so he gets some slack. It's dry in spots — clearly no baloney about the political career or the other careers as a state trooper and a 1960s–era computer guy, among other things.

And, mostly, it's glorious.

There are parents and children (six) and wives (two).

The word "service" is huge. There is humor (a swimming facility he helped get built while mayor is known as "Musante Beach",) and a no–holds barred wince or two ("I was hurt when I lost my first campaign for Mayor in 1969 ...")

There are the six two–year terms as mayor of Northampton. There is a stint in the Peace Corps that he started in his early '60s. There is the attendance at a baseball–umpiring school in Houston at age 65, that, until recently, launched him to umpiring 160 high school games a year.

There is even a plug for Sen. John Kerry for president. All in Musante's obit written by Musante.




Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: The Hawk Eye

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Russia; Obituaries

PCOL11172
99

.


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: