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Write Your Own Obituary Assignments

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you provide any tips on how to write your own obituary? At age 80, I am in the process of preplanning my funeral and would also like to take a crack at writing my own newspaper obit too.

--Still Alive

Dear Alive,
For many people, writing their own obituary can be a nice way to sum up their life, not to mention avoid any possible mistakes that sometimes occur when obituaries are hurriedly written at the time of death. Here's what you should know, along with some tips and tools to help you write one.

Obit Tips
Before you start writing your obit, your first step is to check with the newspaper you want it to run in. Some newspapers have specific style guidelines or restrictions on length, some only accept obituaries directly from funeral homes, and some only publish obituaries written by newspaper staff members.

If your newspaper accepts self-written obits, find out if they have a template to guide you, or check with your funeral provider. Most funeral homes provide forms for basic information, and will write the full obituary for you as part of the services they provide.

You also need to be aware that most newspapers charge by the word, line or column inch to publish an obituary, so your cost will vary depending on your newspaper's rate and length of your obit - most range between 200 and 500 words.

What to Include
Depending on how detailed you want to be, the most basic information in an obituary usually includes your full name (and nickname if relevant), age, date of birth, date of death, where you were living when you died, significant other (alive or dead), and details of the funeral service (public or private). If public, include the date, time, and location of service.

Other relevant information you may also want to include is: cause of death; place of birth and parents names; your other survivors including your children, other relatives, friends and pets and where they live; family members who preceded your death; high school and colleges you attended and degrees earned; your work history and military service; your hobbies, accomplishments and any awards you received; your church or religious affiliations; any clubs, civic and fraternal organizations you were members of; and any charities you feel strongly about that you would like people to donate to either in addition to or in lieu of flowers or other gifts.

You'll also need to include a photo, and be sure to leave copies with your funeral director and/or immediate family members.

Need Help?
If you need some help writing your obituary there are free online resources you can turn to like legacy.com, obituaryguide.com or caring.com/obituary, which offer tips, templates and sample obits.

Or, if you want your obit to be more memorable, purchase the ObitKit. This is a $20 workbook that helps you gather the details of your life so you can write an obituary that will reflect your personality and story.

Ethical Will
If you're interested in writing your own obituary, you may also be interested in writing a legacy letter or ethical will.

A legacy letter is a heartfelt letter that you write to your loved ones sharing with them your feelings, wishes, regrets, gratitude and advice. And an ethical will (which is not a legal document), is like an extension of a legacy letter that many people use to express their feelings as well as explain the elements in their legal will, give information about the money and possessions they're passing on, and anything else they want to communicate.

For help in creating these, there are lots of resources available like celebrationsoflife.net and personallegacyadvisors.com, which offers practical information, examples and materials you can purchase to help you put it together.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.

The smartest man in the world has died. Philip Adair van Thullenar was born in Texas on a sweltering August day in 1931 and died on a beautiful fall day in November 2016. The birth and death of this great man, however, is not nearly as relevant as all the days and nights that he lived to the fullest between those two dates.
His parents knew they had the perfect child, which is why they only had one. Phil was intellectually gifted and had tremendous natural athletic ability. He was born in Texas, but due to his father’s occupation with the National Weather Service, Phil lived and went to school in Wisconsin, Boston, Salt Lake City, Berlin, Germany and Kansas City. He excelled at hockey and was asked to join the Olympic team when he was in high school in Boston, but his parents insisted his studies come first so he declined and continued to earn straight A’s through college.
He was such an excellent baseball player in college, he received offers from three major league baseball teams to join their pitching roster. Once again, he and his parents discussed the offer and concluded that while a few years in MLB would indeed be exciting, a career in the medical profession would provide lifelong stability and many opportunities.
He attended Rockhurst College, where he met the love of his life, Susan Marie Turgeon. She proclaimed the day she met him she was going to marry him and when that woman sets her mind to something, nothing gets in her way! Phil was a member of the choir and Alpha Sigma NU at Rockhurst. Upon graduation, he attended medical school at St. Louis University where all the men wanted to be like him and all the women knew to stay away from him. Sue had her hooks in and wasn’t letting go. After graduating at the top of his class (and narrowly escaping the wrath of his roommate for his annoying habit of loudly chewing on his favorite candy, lemon drops), Phil and Sue were married in September 1956 in Kansas City, Mo.
The first of 8 children arrived 9 months later and our dad kept our mom in maternity wear for 10 years! When she told him she wanted 10 children, he didn’t bat an eye and truly looked forward to making that wish come true for her. However, after the 8th “baby” arrived as a full-blown toddler, Sue declared, “8 is enough!” Two girls were born in Portland, Ore., three boys came next in KC, then a third daughter arrived at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., where Phil was a Captain in the Air Force before they returned to Roeland Park, KS and had their 4th girl and 4th boy, making it a full house.
They raised their eight kids in a ranch house up the street from Bishop Miege High School, near St. Agnes grade school, where all eight kids attended, excelled, some were expelled, but all graduated, some with honors, like their dad. Phil truly enjoyed watching his children play sports, sing in concerts, perform in plays and musicals and only bailed one out of jail. He was a patient man. One of our classmates once said, “You must be rich – your dad’s a doctor!” Upon hearing this, Phil laughed and said, “I have eight children – I’ll never be rich financially! But I am blessed beyond riches in many other ways that no amount of money can buy.”
The family vacations, annual Memorial Day camping trips and outings to the Kings basketball, KC Blues hockey, Chiefs football and Royals baseball games were always fun and special. Phil provided countless lifelong memories for his children, their friends, his and Sue’s friends and extended family members that we will cherish forever. Naturally, after taking his eight (im)perfect kids on vacation every summer, he and Sue always took another vacation – just the two of them to replenish their sanity.
Phil was a respected Pathologist at St. Luke’s, Menorah, Bethany and Providence Medical Centers. He was the deputy coroner for Wyandotte County, provided brilliant testimony at many trials and was President of the Cancer Association of Wyandotte County. He used to brag (or perhaps threaten?) that he could kill someone and nobody would ever know.
After suffering a major stroke five years ago, a new Phil emerged. The Phil we grew up with was patient, genteel, fastidious in his appearance and never said a curse word or spoke badly of anyone. After his stroke, a bolder, more outspoken Phil emerged, and he was not afraid to speak his mind, often quite colorfully. He frequently called his sons “Dick”, which some attribute to the stroke while others believe it was a subconscious way of him calling his sons out on all the cars of his they wrecked and all the tools of his they “borrowed,” never to be seen again.
Left behind to carry on Phil’s legacy: his beloved wife of 60 years, “Suesy,” his children, Diane, Cecile, Andrew, Jeffrey, Ted, Kristin, Ann, and David, their spouses, and 18 grandchildren. If you feel the urge to spend money, Phil would not want anyone to waste their money on flowers for his funeral. Instead, he would be tickled pink if you planted flowers in your garden or took you and your family out to a movie, a concert or a nice meal at a locally owned restaurant. He lived a full and happy life, and we are honored to celebrate the dash between the day he entered this world and the day he left it. We encourage you to do the same.

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