Tag Archives: obituaries

No more Emru

Emru Townsend, the guy whose search for a bone marrow donor became an Internet campaign to get people to register, and who found a match but kept the campaign going, died Tuesday night after it became clear the cancer was too much for the transplant.

The hope now is that others won’t have to face the same fate.

UPDATE: PC World, which he contributed to, has an obit (via mtlweblog) with links to some of his articles, including the 10 worst (console) games of all time.

The Gazette also has a longer obit posted, at least part of which was compiled before his death when it was clear he wouldn’t make it.

Thomas McEntee

One of the quirks working at The Gazette involves the obituaries section.

Despite the paper’s best efforts, it still becomes difficult to get people to plan their deaths in advance. And so, seven days a week, people collect paid obituary notices and compile them for the next day’s paper. And the space they’re given to fill is usually larger than the amount of obituaries they have.

So at about 8pm every night, the news desk gets a call from the obituaries people telling us how much extra space there is. Sometimes there’s none, sometimes it’s a column, a few columns, a full page, or a full page and more.

When there’s a full page free, the ideal situation involves giving it to the section that precedes it, usually either business or sports. This is why you’ll sometimes see a full page of business news in Monday’s Your Business section just before the obits. But the news usually comes too late for the section editor to re-engineer the section to accomodate.

When that happens, and when there’s space on a page shared by paid obituaries, we run editorial ones. These are usually pieces from the New York Times or Washington Post about obscure musicians or scientists we’ve never heard of. Occasionally, though, we get a famous death or a locally-produced obit.

On Thursday night, I got approached by Alan Hustak, aka “Dr. Death.” He writes most of the Gazette’s obits, and had just written a medium-sized piece on Thomas McEntee, an Irish Catholic priest with a strong attachment to Griffintown. I was editing the World section at the time, and it’s usually that person’s responsibility to fill the obit pages when they come in.

When news came down of the space to fill, I had a full page plus a column. Hustak’s piece could have been crammed into that column with a small picture, but I decided to see if I could make it fill a full page.

Fortunately, Father McEntee has had his name in the paper quite a few times. He had this thing for a 19th-century woman named Mary Gallagher who would haunt Griffintown every seven years and look for her decapitated head. A story about that campaign led to plenty of pictures taken by staff photographers a few years ago.

I took one of those pictures and had it fill almost the entire page above the fold. Below, I had the article, which was still way too short to fill the space without it looking weird.

Rather than give up, or find some other obit to fill the space, I went through the archives. I found a profile on him that had been done in 1991, and cut out some information about his background and education. Combined with an old picture that Hustak had found, I made a fast-facts infobox. On the other side of the article, I put another infobox, which I filled with part of an old story by Hustak about Mary Gallagher.

A little bit of playing around to make everything line up, a pullquote to fill some space, and voila: A full-page obituary for a local priest, put together on deadline.

The online versions don’t do justice to the layout, but here they are anyway:

As for the other column, as I looked for something to fill it, news was just breaking that Harvey Korman had died. The decision was simple.

So I left, because there was no one to hold me there

For the benefit of those who don’t get the Gazette’s sports final edition, Charlton Heston died Saturday. His obituary came in really late, so some of you in the suburbs will have to settle for obits of less important people instead.

You can read the obit we used from the L.A. Times.

Not to sound uncaring or anything, but does this mean we can take his guns now? Or do we have to wait for him to cool down first?

Don Wittman’s greatest hits

Don Wittman

CBC sportscaster Don Wittman died last week, ironically on the same day as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Football League, for which he was a regular play-by-play commentator (at least until the CBC decided they needed someone younger).

CBC.ca has a feature section on Wittman, including some clips of his more memorable moments (which I think understate how recognizable a voice he was on CBC Sports).

But while the news focuses on his calling Ben Johnson’s track-and-field win, then Donovan Bailey’s world-record-setting 100-metre run at the 1996 Olympics, and his unexpected foray into news reporting at the 1972 Munich games, but my favourite is this bench-clearing brawl during the 1987 world junior hockey championship, which was so out of control that the officials turned the lights out to get everyone to calm down:

Some other videos worth watching:

A missing voice

This week’s blog profile is une vie en musique, whose author René Lapalme died June 9 of cancer. It was written before the latest post went up. Normally blogs and other websites of the deceased stay frozen forever. This one, it turned out, was an exception.

Reading René’s blog gives a timeline of his declining health. His increased fatigue causing him to take a break and slowly return to work a month later not knowing the cause, the decision to finally see a doctor, the battery of tests eventually leading to the discovery of cancer, his tearful video thank-you to his readers for their support, and eventually his last post, a self-portrait of a man half his previous weight and without his long curly hair, where those who heard of his death added comments to say their final goodbyes.

The blogosphere response to news of his death was huge. I won’t try to summarize the dozens of blog posts about him from his readers, but it was clear he had a lot of them. A few to point out though:

  • Guy Verville, who first broke the news.
  • Martine, from whom many learned of René’s passing.
  • Andre, of Metroblogging Montreal, among many with brief stories of their encounters with René.
  • A special video tribute, feating one of René’s songs.

Radio Centre-Ville had a special show the Tuesday after his death (where he volunteered his time on a radio show) devoted to him. It’s no longer online, but if someone saved a copy I’d be glad to point to it.
The official obit is here. His self-written biography is better. Though to truly understand his character, I would recommend taking a look at his photo comics, or listen to his music.

I’m not normally an emotional person. I don’t like writing sad things. Hopefully I won’t have to write another blogger obit for a while longer.