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Yes, It's Somewhat in Bad Taste, But It Is Pretty Funny:

See this Chicago Tribune obituary:

Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country. Graveside services Tuesday 11 a.m. at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery (Ziditshover section), 1700 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago. In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans. Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals . . . .

Assuming this was indeed Mr. Heller's last wish (or his family's plausible inference about his wishes), I have to admire his spunk and vinegar, even if I wouldn't write my own obituary in a similar way.

Anderson (mail) (www):
Hey, I need to update my will!
10.13.2005 5:47pm
Paul N (mail):
Don't tell me that in between writing groundbreaking papers, blogging, teaching, being a papa, and whatever else Eugene does, he also has time to read the obits in the Chicaco Tribune!
10.13.2005 6:08pm
LizardBreath (mail):
In honor of Mr. Heller, I would like to announce to all Republicans reading this that you are sorely, sorely mistaken about many things.
10.13.2005 6:25pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
Why did Mr. Heller hate America? Does he not understand that Republicans protect our freedom, while Dumbocrats love al Qaeda and ally themselves with the Hizbollah?

I moreover simply cannot accept that Mr. Heller is a WWII vet --- if he is maybe he shot himself in the leg to win a purple heart just like John Kerry (Michelle Malkin said John Kerry did that so it must be true).
10.13.2005 6:37pm
Igglephan:
I find it somewhat disturbing that the letters would go to any republican, not just officeholders or eminences like Bill Bennett. His friends could pretty much just revive the "I Hate Brenda Newsletter" in (dis)honor of Shannen Dougherty.
10.13.2005 6:49pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, he did call for merely acerbic letters, not hateful ones.
10.13.2005 7:05pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
He's just a loyal Chicago Democrat, that's all. He likes to stick it to Republicans. Has voted Democratic all his life and will probably continue to do so for years to come.
10.13.2005 7:16pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
I don't see how it's in bad taste if it's what he wanted; we expect a certain decorum around obits and funerals because the dead can't speak for themselves, and either attacking them or putting words in their mouths is distasteful. But for him to speak for himself, with quite literally a lifetime of experience to guide him? In perfectly good taste, I think.
10.13.2005 7:18pm
von (mail) (www):
He's just a loyal Chicago Democrat, that's all. He likes to stick it to Republicans. Has voted Democratic all his life and will probably continue to do so for years to come.

Classic!
10.13.2005 7:19pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Along the same lines, pretty much the last intelligible words my grandfather said, in hospital:

"I had to live to be 94, but I outlived Nixon, that sonofabitch!"

We used it at his memorial service.
10.13.2005 8:21pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
It seems to me in bad taste because a person's death should generally be an occasion for sympathy, reflection, sorrow, respect, honoring his works, and doing good works in his name -- not, I think, partisan squabbling, no matter how much the person might have appreciated it.
10.13.2005 8:45pm
Gabe (www):
Since I think it highly likely he wrote it himself before he died, I don't think it is in bad taste.
10.13.2005 8:50pm
Jeff H (mail):
Well, sure, if the comments weren't who he was, it's pretty distasteful, but just from reading this post, I'd like to think it reflected the man. So, if that's true, then whether or not I agree with his sentiments, I look foward to receiving acerbic letters and hope that my family has a similar sensibility when my time comes.
10.13.2005 9:27pm
cbi:
I don't think it was in bad taste. If I was to take a guess, based on the rest of the obit, he was likely a pain in the a** but an interesting guy to join for a beer. On a side note...my uncle raised show pigs in his spare time and was very active in the local ag program. At his funeral, the preacher said "Attention in the swine barn" instead of a typical notice to pay attention to the front. It was perfect for my uncle (certainly made his friends/family smile) and he would have thought it was funny. I would imagine this guy was the same way.
10.13.2005 11:02pm
WB:
I think spunky old guys are awesome. "No one tells me when to serve my country" -- classic.

It's only partisan squabbling if you get a reply. I wonder how many people would actually do that, though. When someone says "in lieu of flowers, donate to charity X," I would expect that a fair number of mourners would actually send donations, but when someone says "acerbic letters to republicans," I would expect that people would smile, think something like "this guy was his own person to the bitter end," but not actually sit down and write the letter.

Just a guess.
10.14.2005 9:44am
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
EV wrote:

a person's death should generally be an occasion for sympathy, reflection, sorrow, respect, honoring his works, and doing good works in his name
While I respect that this is what _you_ want for the occasion of your death, I deny that there is a single right way to Do These Things. Death, like life, is somewhat, personal, meaning interpersonal.

If the decedent is a Jolly Soul who wanted their passing to be an occasion of hilarity, why not have a wake with laughter and song? If their fondest wish is that the assembled mourners don dealie-boppers - I think I read a recent obituary where that happened - then who are you to stand in the way of the wishes of the dearly departing?

I think it's in bad taste to refrain from honoring the wishes of the dead - so long as I agree with those wishes.

Acerbic letters, away...
10.14.2005 11:42am
Been there:
a person's death should generally be an occasion for sympathy, reflection, sorrow, respect, honoring his works, and doing good works in his name

I suppose he might say that writing acerbic letters to Republicans is a "good work."

Since I believe in honoring veterans, should I write one to myself?
10.14.2005 12:35pm
old maltese:
A little odd: he mentioned his dear son and his dearly departed sister, but not his wife (departed or not, dear or not -- hmm, had he married a Republican?).
10.14.2005 1:05pm
cathyf:
Maybe his wife ran off with the republican neighbor?

cathy :-)
10.14.2005 1:26pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Assuming that the obit was in fact crafted at the request of old Teddy Roosevelt Heller himself, I'm thinking that this may simply be a more practical form of the tradition of the curmudgeonly pre-drafting of one's own tombstone.
The chance that any significant number of friends/neighbors/strangers will ever view or READ anyone's actual tombstone, is very low in this day and age, and by doing this, ol' Teddy got himself on the internet. We're still talking about him, and as far as I know, none of us knew him. He's still annoying Republicans, from beyond the pale. Bravo!

RFGS
10.14.2005 1:43pm