April 28, 2006

No Anchovies

Domino's delivery van transported pizza, corpses in same car.

Thankfully, not at the same time.

Apparently, it's not against the law in Pennsylvania though they did charge the drive for driving with a suspended license.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

Death Too Young Online

The phenomenon of death at a too early age explains some of the Rituals of Grief Online in the New York Times.

Inevitably, some of these young people have died — prematurely, in accidents, suicides, murders and from medical problems — and as a result, many of their personal Web pages have suddenly changed from lighthearted daily dairies about bands or last night's parties into online shrines where grief is shared in real time.

The pages offer often wrenching views of young lives interrupted, and in the process have created a dilemma for bereaved parents, who find themselves torn between the comfort derived from having access to their children's private lives and staying in contact with their friends, and the unease of grieving in a public forum witnessed by anyone, including the ill-intentioned.

Friends of MySpace users who have died said they had been comforted by the messages left by others and by the belief or hope that their dead friends might somehow be reading from another realm. And indeed many of the posts are written as though the recipient were still alive.
It's a little weird to say as a parent, but the site has been a source for us to get to know her better," Mr. Walker said. "We didn't understand the breadth and scope of the network she had built as an individual, and we got to see that through MySpace. It helped us to understand the impact she's had on other people."

At the same time, Ms. Walker's mother, Julie, wrote in an e-mail message, the family was overwhelmed by unsolicited e-mail messages from strangers offering platitudes and seeking to advise them on how to handle their grief. The family found such offerings unwelcome, however well intentioned.T

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2006

Games in the Hospice

One of the favorite games in Art Buchwald's hospice is What Would You Do If You Only Had One Month To Live. Well, Halo There

Two said they would like to spend their last month with their children. And one said, "I don't even know where my children are."

Another friend said, "If I only had a month to live, I'd go to Las Vegas and put up a million dollars at Binion's poker table."

One lady said she'd go to Gucci and get a decent pair of shoes. "You can't walk around in loafers for an entire month."

A male friend said he would watch the basketball final from courtside.

One man was very surly. He said he'd spend the entire month getting even with all the people who had been mean to him. What makes him a real sourpuss is that he said, "There is no one in heaven I want to meet -- I might not even want to go there. If a doctor tells me I have only a month to live, I'll get a second opinion."

What would you say?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:40 PM | Permalink

April 23, 2006

Killed by Hole in Home

Imagine sitting at home a Friday night, having a beer and all of sudden you are sucked into a hole.

Man Killed by Hole in Home

A 27-year-old man was killed Friday night when he was sucked into a 10-foot-deep hole that opened up suddenly in a two-story home in rural Alta, Placer County sheriff's deputies said Saturday.

The victim's body remained in the hole Saturday night, and efforts to extract it will resume this morning, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Dena Erwin said.

His name will not be released until his identity can be verified, she said.

"It's unbelievable," Erwin said. "From the front of the house, it's absolutely normal. Then, in the middle of the house, is this enormous hole."

The home, built in the 1980s off Drum Powerhouse Road, may have sat on a decades-old underground mine, Erwin said.

Deputies said the victim was fully awake in the home's ground floor about 9:30 p.m. Friday, when the concrete foundation near the kitchen gave way. He dropped through the foundation and then through the ground underneath it, Erwin said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2006

On Writing a Memoir

William Zinseer wrote the classic On Writing Well may well have written another.

"How to Write a Memoir" (William K. Zinsser)

Below are excerpts from an NPR interview On Memoir, Truth and 'Writing Well'

You must make a series of reducing decisions. For example: in a family history, one big decision would be to write about only one branch of the family. Families are complex organisms, especially if you trace them back several generations. Decide to write about your mother's side of the family or your father's side, but not both. Return to the other one later and make it a separate project.

My final reducing advice can be summed up in two words: think small. Don't rummage around in your past -- or your family's past -- to find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.
I never felt that my memoir had to include all the important things that ever happened to me -- a common temptation when old people sit down to summarize their life journey. On the contrary, many of the chapters in my book are about small episodes that were not objectively "important" but that were important to me. Because they were important to me they also struck an emotional chord with readers, touching a universal truth that was important to them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:12 PM | Permalink

April 21, 2006

Final Salute

A Pulitzer Prize winner for 2006, Jim Sheeler of the Rocky Mountain News
for his poignant story on a Marine major who helps the families of comrades killed in Iraq cope with their loss and honor their sacrifice.

It's called Final Salute. There's an audio slide show, a video, a forum and extraordinary writing. The great photographs are by Todd Heisler.

For the past year, the Rocky Mountain News has followed Maj. Steve Beck as he takes on the most difficult duty of his career: casualty notification. As Beck and his comrades at Buckley Air Force Base keep constant watch over the caskets of the men they never knew, the Marines also comfort the families of the fallen, and choke back tears of their own.

It's all part of a tradition that started in 1775: Never leave a Marine behind.

  Gloves And Roses

When he first donned the Marine uniform, Beck had never heard the term "casualty assistance calls officer." He certainly never expected to serve as one.

As it turned out, it would become the most important mission of his life.

Each door is different. But once they're open, Beck said, some of the scenes inside are inevitably the same.

"The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know," he said.

"You can almost see the blood run out of their body and their heart hit the floor. It's not the blood as much as their soul. Something sinks. I've never seen that except when someone dies. And I've seen a lot of death.

"They're falling - either literally or figuratively - and you have to catch them.

"In this business, I can't save his life. All I can do is catch the family while they're falling."

In the Marines, the same person who knocks on the door is the family's primary contact for the next year or more.

There is no group of Marines whose primary task is death notification. Just as every Marine is a rifleman - expected to be able to handle a weapon and head to the front if tapped - any officer also may be called to make the walk to the door.

For Beck, that door is the "LOD" - the line of departure. The point of no return.

After all of the racing, all of the frantic scramble, it's the point where time freezes.

"Once I get to the porch, I stand there and take a deep breath. At that point, you can wait 10 seconds, wait 30 seconds, wait an hour - it's not going to go away," he said.

"There's no option. There's no fork in the road. You just stare down that straight path. You step up because there is no fork.

"I pick myself up, gather my thoughts and ring the bell.

  Last Night Together

While the city churned, the sun found the building where Katherine Cathey awoke.

"It's the best night of sleep I've had," she said, surprised. "I really slept."

As she sat, wrapped in a blanket, her eyes bleary, she looked at the casket.

"You take for granted the last night you spend with them," she said. "I think I took it for granted. This was the last night I'll have to sleep next to him."

Behind her, the next Marine approached, preparing to take over the watch.

"I feel like they're my angels looking over me," Katherine said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2006

The People in the Windows

I am upset to think how many people believe what Cindy Sheehan wrote about how the government returned her dead son Casey in a cardboard box.

The reality is the Armed Forces take extraordinary care and respect in carrying the fallen back home and into the care of their families. For the next couple of posts, I will post excerpts from Final Salute by Jim Sheeler in the Rocky Mountain News. His feature won the 2006 Pulitzer prize "for his poignant story on a Marine major who helps the families of comrades killed in Iraq cope with their loss and honor their sacrifice."

  Unloading Fallen Airport Todd Heisler
Photograph by Todd Heisler, Rocky Mountain News

As jet engines roared around him, Beck looked at the plane. The Marines marched to the cargo hold, toward the casket.

"See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines," Beck said. "You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home."

Commercial airplanes transport caskets every day - including service members killed in action. For the most part, the passengers have no idea what lies below.

Most people will never see the Transportation Security Administration officials standing on the tarmac with their hands over their hearts as a body is unloaded. They won't see the airport police and firefighters lined up alongside their cars and engines, lights flashing, saluting the hearse on its way out.

Occasionally, a planeload of passengers is briefly exposed to the hard reality outside the cabin.

"They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives," Beck said, looking back at the passengers. "They're going to remember bringing that Marine home.

"And they should."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:57 PM | Permalink

Patriot Guard Riders

Hundreds show up at the funeral of Lance Cpl Philip Martini in South Holland waving flags to draw attention away from protesters.

The Westboro protesters travel to funerals of those slain in the Iraq war saying that American soldiers are being killed and maimed as God's vengeance for this country's permissive attitude towards homosexuality.

In a scripted speech to television news crews, Shirley Phelps-Roper, the reverend's daughter and spokeswoman, said soldiers and their families deserved the pain they got.

"This nation forgot her God and went whoring after other gods ... namely the god of the homosexuals," she said. "If you turn this country over to fags, soldiers will come home in body bags."

Many of the flag-wavers are affiliated with the Patriot Guard Riders, whose mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Their goals are to show their sincere respect and to shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters. They have no political message themselves.

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.

We don’t care what you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a "hawk" or a "dove". It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is. You don’t even have to ride.
The only prerequisite is Respect.

Such a group would not have existed before the Internet. Their lineage goes back to August, 2005. They have formed an army of davids in an ad hoc collaboration to ensure that families can grieve without getting caught in a snare of political protest.

 Patriot Guard Riders

Every funeral of an American soldier becomes a mission.

Ed Mueller, the Patriot Guard Riders' state "ride captain," said he was confident his group got its job done.

"Hopefully," he said, "when the (Martini) family showed up today, all they saw was a sea of red, white and blue, and not those despicable signs."

They ride to do the right thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 PM | Permalink

No Cardboard Box for Casey Sheehan

Gateway Pundit has more on how the remains of Casey Sheehan were handled in Busted! Cindy Sheehan's Story Hits a Snag

On Tuesday, April 11, 2006, Cindy Sheehan wrote:

* Her son arrived in California in a cardboard box
* Her son was carried over to the dock by a forklift
* Her mortuary refused to pay the cemetery
* Her son was treated as an over-sized piece of luggage

These are her words.

I will tell the world why Casey has no marker yet. In the first place, does anyone who is attacking me know how Casey was brought home from Iraq? We picked him up in the United loading dock in a cardboard box and he was off-loaded into a hearse without one honor guard. We had to wait for about a half hour on a curb near the United freight area for his one escort, who rode from Dover Air Force Base in a seat, while Casey was treated as an over-sized piece of luggage. Has anybody held her other sobbing children who are sitting on a curb in San Francisco, waiting for the remains of their big brother to be carried over to the dock by a forklift?

Here's what the Department of Defense told Gateway Pundit.

Cardboard boxes are never use to transfer soldiers!

"Crates" have not been used since Vietnam. Fallen soldiers today are moved in steel or aluminum caskets to their home of record (hometown). Further, the escort inspects the casket when it is unloaded. Since arrangements are made before each fallen soldier arrives to their home of record, the military would be shocked to hear that a forklift was used.

Before any remains leave Dover, port mortuary personnel coordinate with the receiving funeral home to arrange that the remains will be met at their final destination. We've arranged transport for over 2300 OEF and OIF casualties. In every case, the transport was arranged in advance and the funeral home was available to receive the remains.

Remains traveling from Dover may be escorted by either a service member, or in some cases, members of the deceased family to the final destination, at a minimum a military escort accompanies the remains to the final destination. Typically, the escort carries the U.S. flag during the flight, and the flag is draped over the casket upon arrival and during transportation to the funeral home. Our normal policy is to have a small honor guard render military honors as the remains of the deceased service member are taken off the plane.

Army Statement:

"The Army ensures that the remains of our fallen are treated with dignity and respect at every step of their journey home. Our dead are transported to Dover Air Force Base at which point families make known their desires for final arrangements. In order to expeditiously meet the needs of our families, the Army typically uses domestic airlines and the local mortuary meets the plane at the airport. These are the same arrangements that mortuaries use when transporting the remains of civilians. Later at the memorial service and funeral, the Army extends its final tribute to the Soldier and continued condolences to their kin."

Gateway Pundit also called the mortuary director who said

"The casket arrived in San Francisco from Dover which is 67 miles from Vacaville. Sacramento would not have been as far. The casket was a beautiful hardwood casket, government regulation. It was covered in an "airtray" to protect it during the flight. It is a certified covering that all caskets must be covered in when they are flown from one location to another.

What about the forklift?

"There was no forklift. The military men present and the airport employees were very reverent in unloading the casket of this young man. They set the casket on a set of rollers and were very respectful in unloading Casey Sheehan."

Maybe it's still grief, but Cindy Sheehan is clearly is not in her right mind. I am just glad that the army accorded Casey Sheehan the respect he deserved even if his mother lies about it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

April 19, 2006

Assassinating the Good

At Iraq the Model, a tragic loss of a brother, assassinated by terrorists. Kill us, but you won't enslave us

Last week our little and peaceful family was struck by the tragic loss of one of its members in a savage criminal act of assassination. The member we lost was my sister's husband who lived with their two little children in our house.

He was a brilliant young doctor with a whole future awaiting him, the couple were the top graduates in their branch of specialty. They had to travel abroad to get their degrees and the war started while they were there but months after Saddam fallen they decided to come back to help rebuild the country and serve their people.
He was not affiliated with any political party or movement and spent all his time working at the hospital or studying at home and he was dreaming of building a medical center for his specialty to serve the poor who cannot afford going to expensive private clinics.
We didn't know or anticipate that cruel times were waiting for a chance to assassinate the dream and kill the future.

It was the day he was celebrating the opening of a foundation that was going to offer essential services to the poor but the criminals were waiting for him to end his life with their evil bullets and to stab our family deep in the heart.

Grief and pain is killing me everyday as I hold my dear nephews, my sister is shocked beyond words while my parents are dead worried about the rest of us.
We are trying hard to close the wound, summon our patience and protect those still alive while we look forward to the future that we hope can bring peace for us.

The terrorists and criminals are targeting all elements of life and they target anyone who wants to do something good for this country…They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.
We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.

May he rest in peace in a land that honors all those that died to bring it freedom.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:26 PM | Permalink

Casey's headstone in the works

Last week Cindy Sheehan wrote that the mortuary handling her son's remains refused to pay the cemetery.

We had a Casualty Officer who abandoned us when our mortuary refused to pay the cemetery and told us that the "government sent the money to the mortuary, so now it is your problem. You may have to sue the mortuary."

From a news article, called Sheehan Refuted in the Vacaville Reporter,

Steve Nadeau, the mortuary's owner, said Monday that not only did he properly pay the cemetery, but that he subsidized the process with his own money.
n an e-mail sent to The Reporter Sunday, Nadeau expressed hurt and disbelief at Sheehan's comments. He said that the amount of money the military gave the mortuary for Casey's funeral service and cemetery arrangements didn't even come close to covering the costs.

"Several kind citizens made donations," said Nadeau. "I absorbed the rest."

This was not the only way in which he went above and beyond his responsibilities following Casey's death, said Nadeau. He also provided a stretch limousine and a driver at his expense, he said, and invited the family to go to the airport with him so that he could accompany them. None of this was required, said Nadeau.

"Having known the Sheehan family for many years through St. Mary's Catholic Church where Ms. Sheehan had previously been the youth director, it was my desire to provide care and dignity to Casey and the family. I did this in every respect."

Nadeau also refuted Sheehan's statement that the mortuary finally paid the cemetery only after the family threatened to bring the story to the media.

"This never happened," said Nadeau. "I would stop by the family home as I do most families' homes and check with them on necessary needs, etc."

Nadeau said the military provided his mortuary $5,736 in funding to pay for the funeral service and cemetery arrangements. The funding came in May 2004, said Nadeau, and he paid the cemetery as soon as the costs had been totaled and the donations received.

The good news is that Casey's grave is now being handled by Cindy's soon-to-be-ex-husband .

Patrick Sheehan said Monday that the small plaque currently marking Casey's grave is something all graves receive before a headstone is constructed. Casey's headstone is in the works, he said, and is being built by a local monument company.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

Too expensive to die in Russia

It's expensive to die in Russia.

Funeral bills rocket after the death of communism

In Soviet times burials, cremations and cemeteries were supervised by the same government department, and all services were free. But in the 1990s the relevant department in Moscow was replaced by a semi-private company called Ritual.

Today the city still owns its 71 cemeteries and three crematoriums but grants Ritual exclusive rights to manage them — effectively creating a private monopoly in the funeral business.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

April 17, 2006

Standing on Holy Ground

I was feeling so yucky after the last post, that I fell upon In a Holy Time like a long, cool drink after being in a desert.

Genelle Fadness has suffered 13 yeas with multiple myeloma, a progressive cancer of the blood, and is reaching the end.

So what's to laugh about?

Life, she said. "I live in the abundance of God's love, and this has been a long, rich journey."

Cancer "has made life and faith more immediate and vivid," she said.
A sense of the sacred enriches her days: Living in the shadow of death, "you stand on holy ground," she said.
"Life is rich no matter what "
Even on her most vulnerable days, she prays, meditates, writes poetry and reaches out to others. She also has become a mentor to others facing cancer, helping them through the sorrow and anger that she says can cripple the understanding of their experience as profound, even holy.
What matters is how we spend our time caring for one another.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:42 AM | Permalink

Chain of Suicide Clinics

In Switzerland, Chain of Suicide Clinics planned

A SWISS lawyer who runs a “suicide clinic” that has helped 42 Britons to kill themselves, intends to offer his services to people who are not terminally ill.

Ludwig Minelli, founder of the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, says he wants to open a chain of high street-style centres to end the lives of people with illnesses or mental conditions such as chronic depression.

Minelli apparently insists the mentally ill have the same rights as those in their right mind to choose how to die.

The U.K. Sunday Times has a long article on the founder Ludwig Minelli called A Date with Death

So far he has helped over 450 people commit suicide since founding Dignitas, the clinic for assisted dying, in 1998. Many of his 5,500 members are suffering from terminal illnesses, but others have non-terminal conditions such as osteoporosis, epilepsy or mental illnesses. Dignitas, or more importantly Minelli, believes that everyone has the right to choose to die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 AM | Permalink

Six feet up and not six feet under

From the New York Times

For a Price, Final Resting Place That Even Tut Could Appreciate

Ed Peck is in no hurry to get there, but when the time comes for him to go to eternity, he wants his last earthly stop to be consistent with his social station.
Six feet up and not six feet under is increasingly the direction in which people want their remains stored when they die, representatives of the funeral industry say. In addition to custom single-family mausoleums, community mausoleums for both coffins and cremated remains are also gaining popularity; in classical or contemporary styles, these often have room to hold hundreds of niches for coffins or urns.

The Cold Spring Granite Company, among the country's largest makers of cemetery monuments, sold 2,000 private mausoleums last year, up from about 65 during a good year in the 1980's. Prices range from $250,000 to "well into the millions," said Michael T. Baklarz, a vice president of the company.
"It's in keeping with the McMansion mentality of boomers," said Thomas Lynch, an author and funeral director in Michigan. "Real estate is an extension of personhood."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:46 AM | Permalink

The Case of the Missing Mom

When the hospital loses your mother's body.

I lost my mother twice in one day. She died early in the afternoon, with my father, my sister and me by her side. It's something I'll never forget. But later that day we lost her again because someone else forgot.

Mom's Final Journey only got funny later

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2006

A month after retiring at 100

He retired when he was 100, after missing only ONE day of work in 70 years and that was to attend his wife's funeral.

Arthur Winston, a transit worker for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, supervised the workers who cleaned and refueled the bus fleet.

So spectacular was his service, he received a citation from President Clinton in 1996 as Employee of the Century.

He died in his sleep just a month after his retirement.

What an extraordinary achievement.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 AM | Permalink

Mayhem at Funeral

In India, with the death and burial of the huge Bollywood star Rajkumar, general mayhem, confusion and panic ensued with riots, mobs, and stoning.

Mayhem as legend buried

At least two people were killed before his burial. One was a man who was shot by police after their bus came under attack as people raged about not having a last opportunity to see Rajkumar. And a policeman died in hospital after being beaten by a mob.

Dozens of mourners and police were hurt.

Schools, shops, cinema halls were shut for the day and few buses were running. Leading IT companies - including Wipro, iGATE and Infosys, India's second-largest software company, along with multinationals Microsoft, Dell and IBM - were also closed.

"Offices that are open get stoned," said an executive at a multinational firm said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2006

Obit for an Obit Writer

From the U.K Telegraph.

Bob Francis, 86, died in Vancouver.

Beginning on the Vancouver Sun, he was taken by the liquor police to a bootleg establishment, where a fight broke out between a couple at the next table. When the officers showed no sign of intervening the young hack gallantly went to the aid of the lady, who screamed "Leave my goddam man alone," and struck him to the ground. She turned out to be a wrestler.

He covered the Sicily and Salerno landings and, on arriving at a hotel on Mount Vesuvius, had the cellar, which had been concealed from the Germans, opened for him. On D-Day he did several broadcasts for the BBC, and was on a Stirling bomber which had an engine shot off. Later he entered Belsen concentration camp with the Allies.

When he described in a Vancouver club the horror of seeing faces with skin but no flesh and the unburied bodies lying around, he was told that everyone knew this was "made up by the Allied propaganda people and Life magazine."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:22 AM | Permalink

Courtroom Memorial for Dead Child

While living in a homeless shelter, she suffocated her youngest child, put the dead baby in a stroller, rode the subway to Queens and threw the body in a dumpster.

Yesterday, Diatra Hester Bey was sentenced to 10 years by New York Supreme Court Justice who turned the proceeding into a memorial for the dead boy whose body was never recovered.

McLaughlin, after alluding to sentencings that feature remarks by victims about the impact of a defendant's crime on their lives, began a religious reflection on Devon's life and death, noting that no one was there to speak for the boy.

"On Feb. 29, 2000, Devon Rivers awoke twice," the judge said. "The first time would be for a short, final day in his life on earth. His second awakening was in heaven as his life was transformed from brief and disheartening to eternal and blissful."

The judge said Devon's death was unacknowledged and he was unmourned.

"No Mass was said," the judge said. "No funeral or memorial service occurred. No prayers were raised. This sentence, therefore, is society's chance to acknowledge his short life, his mindless killing, and to recognize his presence among us and now his absence from us.

"Devon, humans failed you, but you know that God has not."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:15 AM | Permalink

April 13, 2006

Skeleton Woman

A woman who fled domestic violence to take shelter in a bedsit, a "women's refuge accommodation", was found, only a skeleton, THREE years after she died, surrounded by Christmas presents, the TV and heat still on.

The lock to her bedsit was drilled open only because housing officials were trying to recover thousands of pounds in unpaid rent.

So much for followup by her family or the housing trust. THREE years!

Skeleton woman dead in front of TV for years

R.I.P. Joan Vincent

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink

Elegy Found in a Seattle Churchyard

We are who we are because we love what we love.

Take a look at the photographs of the Elegy Found in a Seattle Churchyard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:41 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2006

Secret Weapon in WW II: Prunes

Who would have thought that the lowly prune was a secret weapon in WW II Special Operations.

The prunes are part of a collection of World War II memorabilia collected by a British woman, the late Doreen Mulot, a former member of Britain's Special Operations Executive, which was set up to carry out operations behind enemy lines.

The dried fruit were softened in water, then de-pitted to allow carefully rolled documents covered in waxed paper to be inserted. The fruit was then re-dried and packed into food parcels for the prisoners, who used the information to escape and find their way home.

On the block at a London auction house are two prunes with maps still inside along with official German document stamps and instructions on sabotage hidden in booklets of various sorts, all part of the collection of one Doreen Mulot, a former member of Britain's Special Operations Executive, sometimes called the "Baker Street Irregulars."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2006

Our National Sound Legacy

Every year since 2000, the Library registers recordings that "are culturally, historically or aesthetically important and /or inform or reflect life in the United States."

The Library of Congress has picked 50 records worthy of preservation this year and inclusion in the National Recording Registry .

The 50 records include

A high school band plays Beethoven. President Calvin Coolidge delivers his inaugural address. Fats Domino turns "Blueberry Hill," a hit for big-band leader Glenn Miller, into a rock 'n' roll classic and Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin Goin' On" .

I haven't found the full list yet, but the entire national registry can be found here.

A fascinating list to peruse. From Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" to Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on First" to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall and Orson Welles's 'War of the Worlds", "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller and "Body and Soul" by Coleman Hawkins. There's 'White Christmas: by Bing Crosby, the 1941 World Series Game Four - Yankees vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers, Glenn Gould's "Bach Goldberg Variations', "Kind of Blue" with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall, J.F. Kennedy's Inaugural Ceremony, the King James version of the Bible recorded by Alexander Scourby, Johnny Cash '"At Folsom Prison", the Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Librarian of Congress, James Billington said, in announcing the choices of 2006.

"The National Recording Registry represents a stunning array of the diversity, humanity and creativity found in our sound heritage, nothing less than a flood of noise and sound pulsating into the American bloodstream,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 PM | Permalink

An Irish Wake, 1926

From The Anchoress, one of my favorite bloggers, comes this description of an Irish wake around 1926 in Brooklyn by one of her relatives.

“For two days, every adult careened between tearful remembrances and roaring recollections. The children milled about, snatchin’ bits of food and playin’ games, stoppin’ by for swift kisses (or kicks) from their parents - two people took turns ‘watching’ each hour, in the livin’ room with the body, while the rest of us were in the kitchen or on the stoops, or in the street, sending him off in style. And didn’t everyone stop by! The policeman, the milkman - for the thing went on all day and all night - the knifesharpener, the ragman, the mailman! They would all stop in and pay their respects, and have a shot of the right stuff, in his memory!

The piano played, the songs were sung - I remember a donnybrook in the front, which seemed to include all the young men, poundin’ upon each other like mortal enemies, except they seemed to enjoy the bloody noses and raw knuckles - and when it was time for prayers, they’d come in, sweaty and respectful, they’d pray then have a drink, then head back out and fight some more! Wasn’t it lively - all that lovely life in the middle of all that death!

And the keening! The sound of the women howlin’ in grief…well, it didn’t seem sincere, but it had a lovely sort of sting to it - it reminded us that life is pain. And wasn’t I tired after a bit, so tired that I stood looking at the coffin and saw him move! It seemed to me his arm slid down and I went screamin’ into the kitchen telling them, ‘he’s movin’, he’s movin’, he’s not dead!’ And didn’t my uncle Francis say, ‘ah, he’s just wanting to join the party, child!’ and they all went in and apologized to himself for not spending more time with him, and brought a plate of food and laid it on his chest and put a glass in his hand.

It was mad. It was glorious. In the morning, we just stepped over the sleeping bodies on the floor or on the grass, and went out to play. When we returned, it was all on, again, until the funeral procession and the Holy Mass - at which everyone held their heads for fear they might fall off! And wasn’t it, after all, the sanest response to death I’d ever seen? When I die, I should have so grand a party!”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2006

Unknown Pearl Harbor Victim Reburied

A once-unidentified sailor killed in the Pearl Harbor attack almost 65 years ago was laid to rest today with full honors and a grave marker bearing his name, thanks to sleuth work by a Pearl Harbor survivor and U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's expertise.

Unknown Pearl Harbor Victim Reburied with Full Honors

In the days following the attack, the unidentified dead, including a sailor identified only as "X-2," were buried in Nuuanu Cemetery in Oahu, Hawaii. Years later, after World War II ended, the Army Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains and attempted to identify them.

Those that couldn't be identified, including "X-2's," were reburied at the Punchbowl on June 9, 1949, defense officials said. About 1,000 others are interred aboard USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor.

This might have been the end of the story, except for the detective work of Ray Emory, a Pearl Harbor survivor and researcher who has spent the past 12 years trying to help match names to unknowns.

Emory, a sailor assigned to USS Honolulu during the attack, calls his effort a labor of love to help honor the memories of those who died and to bring closure to their families. "I'll be doing this to my dying day," said the 84-year-old Hawaii resident.

RIP Seaman 2nd Class Warren Paul Hickock.
Hats off to Ray Emory.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2006

In his grave with his porn

I don't know what to make of this but to think what a sad life.

A 65-year old unmarried Russian man is apparently so attached to his stack of porn magazines, that not only has he decided to be buried with them when he dies, but has also designed a coffin with special space for them.

In grave with his porn collection

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink

Mom dies after son calls 911

When a six year old boy called 911 to get help for his mom and the dispatcher demanded to speak to an adult.

The little boy called back a short time later and the same dispatcher told him that he could get in trouble for making prank calls.

His mother was found 3 hours later, dead.

Dispatchers think it's a prank

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:49 PM | Permalink

Time Goes By so Break Out the Bubbly

I think that when you turn 65, you can become a Great Legacy in the making. It's not just that you venture out because Social Security and Medicare have finally kicked in. It's not for finally becoming an Elder and not just an older middle-ager. And it's not being a Crabby Old Lady.

It's for tackling head-on what nobody else talks about - what it's really like to get older. Time Goes By so let's break out the bubbly


Happy 65th Birthday, Ronni Bennett

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 PM | Permalink

April 6, 2006

New site family oral history

From Ronni Bennett, what looks like a great site on how to make your family oral history using digital tools.

In addition to lots of good tips, Suzanne Kitchens also has a blog which she'll get back to once she finishes her taxes.

UPDATE: It's Susan not Suzanne and she's got an RSS feed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2006

Life and Death Masks

I found the Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks at Princeton AMAZING.

Masks captured faces long before photographs. I felt a real contact with people dead hundreds of years as I gazed at their faces.

  Elizabeth I Queen Of England

Queen Elizabeth I

  Benjamin Franklin Life Mask

Benjamin Franklin's life mask

  Thomas Paine Death Mask

Thomas Paine death mask

  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe Life Mask

Johann Wolfgang Goethe - life mask

 James Dean Life Mask

James Dean, life mask. Doesn't he look a bit like Russell Crowe?

via Hanan Levin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2006

Blue Light Coffins

Helen Baxter in North Scituate, R.I. makes coffins that are not only beautiful, but can be used as furniture until the last day comes.

Her creations make an eternal impression.

Baxter points to the eye-grabber in the store, a tall lavender bookshelf with a delicate design of lilacs painted behind the single shelf. Around the sides of the recently-finished piece are tiny green willow leaves, and the strong arms of an oak tree wrap around the outside frame, as though protecting it. The only giveaway that this is an antique-style coffin, standing upright, is its hexagonal shape. The coffin lid, which Baxter says is usually stowed away while the coffin is being used as furniture, has birch tree branches painted on it. The woman who commissioned the coffin, she explains, is a perfectly healthy 61-year-old nurse named Helen Busby. ''She said she liked birches, oaks, and willows," Baxter says. ''When she's laid out it will be really beautiful."

The Blue Light Coffin Co.

My coffins are handcrafted and handpainted. Many people order them early in life so that they may serve more than their final intended purpose. My coffins are designed to be practical and beautiful in a home for years in advance of need, serving as blanket chests, window seats, coffee tables and more.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

David Dornstein, while at Brown, had an idea for a fictional autobiography.

''The idea?" his brother would write later. ''An unknown young writer dies in a plane crash leaving behind lots of notebooks and bits of stories, and the narrator sets out to piece it all together into a story of the unknown writer's life."

Only 25 when the Libyan terrorists blew Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1968, David Dornstein fell 6 miles to earth.

Fortunately, he had left lots of notebooks and story ideas from which his brother Ken pieced together David's life and his own.

From Beyond Biography, a book review by Daniel Akst in the Boston Globe

Ken didn't just visit the remains of the Boeing aircraft and determine where David sat in relation to the fateful load of Semtex explosives. He pored over his brother's most private writings. He interviewed David's friends. He tracked down his brother's childhood sexual abuser. He became romantically involved with not one but two of David's main love interests. Eventually he married one of them.

"The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky : A True Story" (Ken Dornstein)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

Lee Marvin, PFC, US Marine Corps

  Lee Marvin-1

Who knew that Lee Marvin received a Purple Heart for wounds received during the battle for Saipan in June 1944?

Barbara Mikelson tells us that he was wounded in his buttocks by fire which severed his sciatic nerve and that Marvin, private first class in the Marines is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

  Lee Marvin Gravestone

I liked Lee Marvin when I saw him in films because he reminded a lot of my first husband. I like him even more now that I know he didn't succumb to Hollywood foolishness.

"I only make movies to finance my fishing," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

April 2, 2006

Cinderella, ass-backwards


It's strange to be 73 years old and have the full story of a life revealed so late and in such wispy layers. It's now emerged with clarity, like an oil painting wiped clean of so many years of dust and grime. There's a measure of understanding these days, and forgiveness for a man whose mind she could never read.

"I've learned for the first time what my father must have gone through," she says. "I give the man a tremendous amount of credit. I feel badly for him because he suffered so much and he didn't know where he was going or what was happening with his family."

After fleeing Nazi Germany, he was a chicken farmer in New Jersey who died 12 years after his arrival, from a heart condition aggravated by stress.

She knew him as a man in dirty overalls, prematurely gray and worn by work and pressure, suffering from gout and other maladies. Just a farmer.

The truth is he was heir to about 20 acres, estimated to be worth $250 million, in the heart of downtown Berlin. And now so is she, thanks to her lawyer Gary Osen.

She sometimes thinks about how things might have been, if history had unfolded differently and her family hadn't had to flee. But those thoughts quickly pass.

"I may have had a different life," she says. "But then I never would have met my husband or had my children or had the life I do have. Would I give that up to be raised as a millionaire's daughter? Not in a heartbeat."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2006

Stanislaw Lem

One of the giants of science fiction died last week, Stanslaw Lem, whose books were translated into 41 languages and sold over 27 million copies according to Wikipedia. His most famous book, Solaris, was made twice into a movie, the latest version starring George Clooney.

From his obituary in the London Telegraph.

Stanislaw Lem, who has died aged 84, was a Polish author whose work employed and subverted the conventions of science fiction and other genres to tackle philosophical questions and to circumvent censorship by the Communist regime.

Lem enrolled in medical school in 1939, but his studies were interrupted when Germany invaded. The family avoided imprisonment by using false papers to disguise their Jewish background. Lem got a job as a mechanic, where he "learnt to damage German vehicles in such a way that it wouldn't be immediately discovered". During this time, he became acutely aware of the role of chance in life, a subject which was later to haunt his fiction. "The difference between life and death depended upon… whether one went to visit a friend at one o'clock or 20 minutes later," he explained. He worked with the resistance, delivering ammunition and smuggling items into the ghetto, from which, in 1942, most of his Jewish friends were taken to their deaths in the camps.
By his death, he was widely regarded as one of the most distinctive voices in European literature, and lauded both for his linguistic inventiveness and a stance which, in its suspicion of both political pragmatism and abstract utopianism, had come to be seen as visionary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:28 PM | Permalink

Coffin Race

Emma Crawford came to Manitou Springs to find a cure for her tuberculosis. She believed she saw her Indian sprit guide waiting for her on Red Mountain. Climbing to the top, she said she wanted to be buried there. She died young, Emma did, at the turn of the century. Her body was carried to the top of Red Mountain by 12 strong men where she was laid to rest.

Lars Leber has photographs of how Manitou Springs remembers Emma Crawford with a coffin race.

  Emma Crawford Coffin Race

Via Hannan Levin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 AM | Permalink