August 31, 2010

The Incorruptibles

I've always been mystified by the Incorruptibles and I am not alone as scientists are baffled and cannot explain the phenomenon of certain dead bodies that do not decompose.


Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes who died in 1879
Incorruptibles are typically found lifelike, moist, flexible, and contain a sweet scent that many say smells like roses or other flowers, for years after death.

Incorruptibles are almost never embalmed or treated in any way due to the religious order's beliefs that the person came from.

Incorruptibles remain free of decay, some for centuries, despite circumstances which normally cause decay such as being exposed to air, moisture, other decaying bodies, or other variables such as quicklime, which is typically applied to a corpse to accelerate decomposition.

Incorruptibles many times contain clear, flowing oils, perspiration, and flowing blood for years after death, where accidental or deliberately preserved bodies have never been recorded to have such characteristics.

Other partial incorruptibles have been found throughout the centuries where certain parts of the body decay normally, while other parts such as the heart or tongue remain perfectly free of decomposition.

Read the whole article to see what else they have in common.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2010

"I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends"

A palliative care nurse sums up the Regrets of the Dying in a surprisingly poignant piece. Read it all.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Read it all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

Even sniffer dogs couldn't find her body in her messy house

I've written often about people who are killed by their own stuff, but this I think is the saddest.

Husband of hoarder discovers her body under piles of rubbish in the messy house they shared - four months after she went missing.

Billie Jean James was found by her shocked husband who incredibly who had been living in the same house as his wife's corpse.

He spotted one of her feet sticking out from underneath the mountain of rubbish and clutter that littered their Las Vegas home.

Police had searched the house several times while looking for 67-year-old James who was known to be a compulsive hoarder.

Sniffer dogs who were used to locate bodies at the site of Ground Zero in New York after the 9/11 terror attack were also sent into the single storey property.

But they were unable to locate the body amid floor to ceiling piles of clothes, rubbish, empty food boxes and other goods that "hoarder" Mrs James had stored.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

August 28, 2010

Storycorps Animated

I've written often about Storycorps, a non-profit organization that believes in the stories of lives and its mission to provide Americans with opportunities to record and share them.

Since 2003, Storycorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 stories, recorded each on a free CD to share, and preserved them all at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Recently the New York Times highlighted them again, The Stories Speak for Themselves, but Pictures Help,

THEY are conversations broadcast every Friday morning on NPR’s “Morning Edition”: snatches of lives recorded by StoryCorps, often poignant, sometimes profound and utterly captivating for many listeners. But they have never made the leap from radio to television, until now.

Storycorps has parted with an animation studio, the Rauch Brothers, who animate some of the stories for later viewing at the Storycorps site, YouTube, and eventually broadcast on PBS's POV.

The results are wonderful, both charming and intimate.

"Being married is like having a color television set, you never want to go back to black and white"

It’s hard to exaggerate what a departure these animations represent for Mr. Isay, a man so ardent in his devotion to the human voice that he has suggested that it might be the container for the soul. Cameras are barred from the booths where StoryCorps conducts its mostly two-person, 40-minute interviews, on the grounds that they would make participants self-conscious.

But, after seeing a DVD of how it could be done, Storycorps founder, David Issay said

"It was this incredibly magical thing, and I was hooked.”

via Ronni Bennett's Interesting Stuff at Times Goes By.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2010

Mother Teresa on dying

August 26, 2010, was the centennial of the birth of young girl in Albania who grew up to take vows as a missionary nun, taking the name of Teresa, in the Irish order the Sisters of Loretto . She taught school for some 17 years in India before she received “the call within the call” to leave the convent and to help the poor while living among them.

With permission from the Vatican to pursue her call, she began a school but soon turned to care for people dying on the streets of Calcutta. The Missionaries of Charity was formally recognized by the Vatican in 1950 with the mission to care for, "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."


From the Wikipedia entry

In 1952 Mother Teresa opened the first Home for the Dying in space made available by the city of Calcutta. With the help of Indian officials she converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, a free hospice for the poor. She renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart. Those brought to the home received medical attention and were afforded the opportunity to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites.

"A beautiful death," she said, "is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted."

Recently, an Italian journalist, Renzo Allegri published a new book of his memories of Mother Teresa. Here is an excerpt that touches on what she thought and felt about dying. Love until it hurts.

One day I asked her spontaneously: “Are you afraid of dying?”.  I had been in Rome for some days. I met her a couple of times and had gone to greet her because I was returning to Milan. She looked at me almost as wishing to understand the reason for my question. I felt I had done wrong in speaking of death and tried to correct my mistake....She remained again for some seconds in silence; then, going back to the question that I asked her, she continued:
“I would be as happy as you if I could say that I will die this evening. Dying I too would go home. I would go to paradise. I would go to meet Jesus. I have consecrated my life to Jesus. Becoming a sister, I became the spouse of Jesus. See, I have a ring on my finger like married women. And I am married to Jesus. All that I do here, on this earth, I do it out of love for him. Therefore, by dying I return home to my spouse. Moreover, up there, in paradise, I will also find all my loved ones. Thousands of persons have died in my arms. It is now more than forty years that I have dedicated my life to the sick and the dying. I and my sisters have picked up from the streets, above all in India, thousands and thousands of persons at the end of life. We have taken them to our houses and helped them to die peacefully. Many of those persons expired in my arms, while I smiled at them and patted their trembling faces. Well, when I die, I am going to meet all these persons. It is there that they await me. We loved one another well in those difficult moments. We continued to love one another in memory. Who knows what celebration they will make for me when they see me. How can I be afraid of death? I desire it; I await it because it allows me finally to return home.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:55 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2010

Beyond a lifetime

Here is a sad and wonderful story in the Boston Globe, Videos capture memories to last beyond a lifetime.

Like she does most every night, Karyn Slomski gathered her young children close to her and read to them — first a story about a day of kindergarten for her 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, then Dr. Seuss for 6-year-old Brendan.

This storytime was different than the rest. It was recorded on video, intended as a living memory.

Slomski hasn’t told her children yet, but she is dying and could have only weeks to live. They know their mother is sick, that something called cancer has ravaged her body over the past four years. But they don’t yet know she will soon be gone.

“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

The videographer, Kate Carter, travels the country to record interviews with the dying as mementos for their loved ones. Carter formed the nonprofit group, LifeChronicles, in 1998 after the death of a close friend with three children. She had worried that other children would lose the memories of their parents, and has now recorded hundreds of videos that chronicle lives nearing their end.

The group provides the videos for free and supports itself through private donations. On this trip, Carter flew across the country on frequent-flier miles donated by a supporter of the program.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

The liquid alternative to cremation

I didn't even know about water cremation, yet, it's already been approved by the Catholic Church.

Cremation by water approved by Church

The world's first water cremation centre on the Gold Coast is offering a liquid alternative to cremation and burial, using a process it hopes will revolutionise the funeral industry - and the process has been approved by the Catholic Church.

Aquamation Industries' John Humphries says the service, at the Eco Memorial Park at Stapylton near Dreamworld, is currently the first of its kind, but he expects around 30 centres around Australia will offer the option within 12 months, reports AAP in theSydney Morning Herald.

"Aquamation is a more natural, ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to cremations and uses water instead of fire to return a body to nature, Mr Humphries said.

-----------The process, called alkaline hydrolysis, relies on the same natural forces by which which a dead animal is returned to nature in the bush, he said.

"So we've put this totally natural process into a stainless steel tube where the body is washed for about four hours; it's the same natural breakdown of tissue, just at a faster rate, and even the Catholic church has now approved it," he said.
------------He said nature invented the process, and his company has "simply re-designed the equipment so the water breaks down the cells and brings the body back to the chemical component it's made up of, leaving only white chalky bones which are returned to the family in an urn, like ashes."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2010

"While the son lay in a coffin playing at the oblivion of eternity"

Then, years later, Julian wrote in his Memoirs: "Thus it was that just as my father passed from this earth, I was lying in a coffin during my initiation into Delta Kappa Epsilon." It is, indeed, remarkable that two such men would participate, unknowingly but at the same time, in the ceremony of dying, the father actually doing it at a distance from his son, while the son lay in a coffin playing at the oblivion of eternity for an hour or so.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Untold Tale by Jack Matthews in the Journal of Higher Education.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2010

Driving off a cliff

Of all the stupid ways to die, driving your car off a cliff while sending a text message is definitely at the top.

Celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan 'was texting' when his car went off a cliff.

The Beverly Hills surgeon, who has treated a host of stars, was in his Jeep when it went off the side of the Pacific Coast Highway yesterday outside Los Angeles. He was texting his brother at the time, according to his ex-girlfriend. 'He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff,' 29-year-old Charmaine Blake told

---- Minutes before the crash, Ryan tweeted: 'After 25 years of driving by, I finally hiked to the top of the giant sand dune on the pch west of Malibu. Much harder than it looks! Whew!' His last Tweet says: 'Border collie Jill surveying the view from atop the sand dune.'

Right up there with Kathleen Collier who was driving lost when she called her daughter for directions. Listening to directions, she drove into the parking lot of a resort and right down a boat ramp into the Sacramento River. Still on the phone she began panicking when her SUV began filling with water. Her daughter could hear the water enter the car, but her mother never got out.
Woman on cellphone drives into river, dies
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:30 PM | Permalink

August 17, 2010

Moment of Truth

As We Live, So Too We Die

When my good father in law was brutally bludgeoned in the head by a thief he underwent brain surgery in an effort to save his life. The surgery was not successful. He was wheeled out of the operating room and placed on life support systems until the family could gather for our farewell. When he was disconnected from the life support machines, I watched as my father in law breathed his last. I marveled as he peacefully ceased to breathe, and a slight smile appeared on his bruised face surrounded by gentle light not of this world. I contrasted this quiet moment to the violent hours that preceded his death that day. A blanket of peace descended upon the room and I felt privileged to witness dad’s final breath. I was mindful of the breath of God; how the Lord sustains life, and absent His breath, we cease to live on earth. Our father lived a good life, and despite the violence that led to his death, he died peacefully surrounded by the loving prayers and faith of his large Irish-German family.

I recall the special graces associated with the passing of an aunt. She was married but her husband preceded her into eternal life. She did not have children because she was always the caregiver of extended family. She was in the process of dying a natural death in the warmth of the family home. It was not necessary that she be hooked up to machines; no intravenous drips of morphine or any other painkiller was needed. We sat around her bed and conversed with her as she went in and out of consciousness. Suddenly she said, “The room is filled with them. There is hardly enough room for all of them. Don’t you see them? Angels are all over this room.” I believed her because she was credible and the existence of angels is part of Catholic doctrine. She continued, “Oh, John (her deceased husband) is here. He is extending his hand to me. There are other family members too. I see them.” Then, speaking first person to her deceased husband she said, “Oh John, I want to go, but I will miss all these people. I am not quite ready please.” This no nonsense woman of faith was utterly believable. It seemed the natural order of things for a good woman who served others selflessly all of her life. We told her that we would miss her but we would be together again; it would be alright if she went to meet the Lord and her husband. The next day, with her face illumined, she looked up as if acknowledging the presence of someone we could not see and then she closed her eyes and peacefully breathed her last.

As we live, so too, we die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

Those medical aid workers killed by the Taliban


Their devotion was perhaps most evident in what they gave up to carry out their mission: Dr. Thomas L. Grams, 51, left a thriving dental practice; Dr. Karen Woo, 36, walked away from a surgeon’s salary; Cheryl Beckett, 32, had no time for courtship or marriage.

Most of all, the 10 medical workers massacred in northern Afghanistan last week — six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans — sacrificed their own safety, in a calculated gamble that weighed the risk against the distribution of eyeglasses and toothbrushes, pain relief and prenatal care to remote villages they reached on foot.


Aid groups vowed Monday to continue their work despite the attack, which one organization called “the worst crime targeting the humanitarian community that has ever taken place in Afghanistan.” Abed Ayoub, for instance, the chief executive officer of said that “currently, there are no immediate plans to decrease our work or staff size in the country.
The New York Times has a good slideshow showing each worker to accompany the piece by Shaila Dewen on the Slain Aid Workers Were Bound by Their Sacrifice
May they all rest in peace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

August 16, 2010

He risked his life to save his brother

It's a sad story, but also one of "friendship, faith and the ultimate sacrifice".

Donor dies after live liver transplant at CU Hospital

AURORA, Colo. - A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help save his brother died just four days after the transplant procedure at The University of Colorado Hospital.It's the first death of a living liver donor in Colorado and only the fourth in the U.S


In the initial days following the procedure, both men were recovering at different rates. Ryan's family says one minute Chad was doing better, and then Ryan, and vice versa.

On July 30, Ryan was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, on the evening of July 31, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.
He died two days later, on Aug. 2.
Ryan Arnold was healthy, active and strong. He was a husband and father of three little boys, ages 1, 4 and 6.
Chad is now recovering at home. He's tired and weak, but otherwise doing well.
He described to us how he first learned of his brother's death.
"My dad came to my hospital room and grabbed my feet. He leaned forward and said, 'I've got some bad news." He was holding back the tears. "Ryan's gone, but we still serve a good God.' He couldn't have said it better," Chad told us. Ryan gave Chad the gift of life, a gift which led to his own death. And because of that, Chad refuses to place the focus on himself
"This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this," Chad says.
And while there's a huge scar on the outside, there's one on the inside as well. Chad is now committed to living his life the way Ryan lived his: with faith, compassion and humility.
"Ryan gave without hesitation. It's the ultimate sacrifice, but he'd do it again."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

August 12, 2010

Must monks install embalming equipment and become funeral directors so they can sell wooden caskets?

Can the government restrict the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Saint Benedict, La., from building boxes?

Yes, says the state, if those boxes are for the deceased.

State Goes After Monks for the "Sin" of Selling Caskets

In 2007, the monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey started St. Joseph Woodworks for the purpose of building simple wooden caskets as a means of supporting themselves. Monks in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota have been in the casket-making business for years.

Before they were able to sell even a single casket, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors told them that their sale of caskets violated state law, which says that you cannot sell “funeral merchandise” unless you’re a licensed funeral director. Were the monks to sell their caskets, they would risk both fines and imprisonment.

In order to sell caskets legally, the monks would have to apprentice at a licensed funeral home for a year, take a funeral industry test, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment,” installing equipment for embalming.
This morning, the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice is holding a press conference on the front steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of the monks. They are announcing a federal lawsuit to fight against the state funeral board’s attempt to shut down their casket-making business.

“A casket is just a box and you do not even need one for burial,” said Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock. “There is no legitimate health or safety reason to license casket sellers.”
The Institute for Justice says that the only reason the state of Louisiana is preventing the Abbey from selling its caskets is to protect the profits of the state’s funeral directors.

“Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks,” said Jeff Rowes, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2010

Transgendered widow, male or female?

A hornet's nest for any estate planner.

Born a boy, but fighting for death benefits as a widow

Gay marriage aside, can someone born a man also be eligible for the rights of a wife and a widow?

That is what courts in Texas are trying to determine in the case of Nikki Araguz, a transgendered person who was born as Justin Purdue and is being barred from spending or collecting the death benefits of her husband, Capt. Thomas Araguz, a 30-year-old firefighter killed in the line of duty July 4.

The case, which transgender advocates hope will result in the overturning of a Texas law that says a person's sex is defined at birth, immediately concerns about $600,000 in survivor benefits, with Nikki Araguz on one side and Simona Longoria, the mother of Capt. Araguz, on the other.

Mrs. Longoria is arguing, on behalf of her grandchildren, that Nikki Araguz was born a man and that since Texas defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the marriage is void and she has no rights to spousal and survivor benefits.

Depending on whether the union is recognized as legal, Nikki Araguz could be denied any benefits or could receive up to $300,000, said Chad Ellis, the attorney for Mrs. Longoria. The rest would go to the 6- and 9-year-old children whom Capt. Araguz had with his first wife, Heather Delgado.

At the time of Capt. Araguz's death, however, the couple had been separated for months, and Nikki Araguz was interested in obtaining a divorce.
Mr. Ellis, however, contends that Capt. Araguz didn't know about Nikki Araguz's former identity as a male until an April 28 deposition set up by Mrs. Delgado, the mother of their children.

Nikki Araguz's past was brought to light during an unsuccessful run for mayor of Wharton, Texas, and Mrs. Delgado then brought it to the court's attention in a dispute with her ex-husband over custody of their children. Nikki Araguz was on probation at the time for drug possession, a fact also mentioned in the custody dispute.

In court, Capt. Araguz clearly stated multiple times that he had no knowledge of his wife's previous identity as a male. At that time, Nikki Araguz's birth certificate also became public.

Nikki Araguz has "a rap sheet about half a mile long," Mr. Ellis said. "We're dealing with someone who has conned people all of her life."

Ms. Haagenson said court testimony was unreliable.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 PM | Permalink

August 10, 2010

Quality of Death Index

The Economist calls it Grim Reapings, an attempt to rank end-of-life care in different countries.

Good-Death-Guide, Economist

Britain tops the table. For all the health-care system’s faults, British doctors tend to be honest about prognoses. The mortally ill get plentiful pain killers. A well-established hospice movement cares for people near death, although only 4% of deaths occur in them.
The report combines hard statistics such as life expectancy and health-care spending as a share of GDP with weighted assessments of other indicators. One is the public awareness of the availability of hospices. Another is whether a country has a formal policy or legislation on treating the terminally ill (only seven of the 40 do).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal R.I.P.

The actress, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1963 film 'Hud,' persevered through a life that was marked by a succession of tragedies.

LA Times obituary by Jack Jones

Actress Patricia Neal, who rebuilt a troubled career to win an Academy Award only to face a more desperate battle for survival when three strokes left her paralyzed and unable to speak or remember, has died. She was 84.
A succession of tragedies marked the life of the actress whose bright promise on Broadway in the mid-1940s took her to Hollywood and into a succession of lackluster films, as well as a desperate love affair with actor Gary Cooper and marriage to British writer Roald Dahl.

Her infant son's brain was damaged when his stroller was struck by a New York City taxicab, a daughter died as a result of measles and then — only a year after she finally won critical acclaim and an Oscar for her portrayal of the weary housekeeper in the 1963 film "Hud" — she suffered three strokes that appeared to end her career.

With the determined help of her husband, Neal recovered sufficiently to return to films, but then lost Dahl to another woman whom she had accepted as a friend.

 Patricia Neal

Creative Minority Report

When Neal was young she fell in love and had an extended affair with her married co-star Gary Cooper. When Neal became pregnant with his child he urged her to have an abortion which she did. Gary Cooper's daughter Maria Cooper famously spat on Neal for carrying on an affair with her father.

Later, however, Maria Cooper and Neal became great friends and it was Maria Cooper who helped bring Neal back to her Catholic faith by having her spend some time at a convent where former actress Sister Dolores was prioress.

From a tribute to her by Monsignor Lisante when she received a pro-life award.

And I said, "In your life, Pat, if there was one thing you could change, what would it be?" And Patricia Neal said, "Father, none of the things you just mentioned." But she said, "Forty years ago I became involved with the actor Gary Cooper, and by him I became pregnant. As he was a married man and I was young in Hollywood and not wanting to ruin my career, we chose to have the baby aborted." She said, "Father, alone in the night for over 40 years, I have cried for my child. And if there is one thing I wish I had the courage to do over in my life, I wish I had the courage to have that baby."

Patricia Neal has put herself on the line in saying to many, many women who have experienced abortion or thought about abortion, "Don't make my mistake. Let your baby live." What's particularly painful, but poignant in this story is that some years later, Patricia became good friends with Maria Cooper, the only child of Gary Cooper and his wife. And Maria Cooper said, "You know, I know you had the affair with my father and I have long ago forgiven that. But one thing I find it hard to accept is that as an only child, I so wish that you'd had my brother or my sister. Because in so many ways, I wish so much that you had chosen life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

Taliban kills 10 medical aid workers

The saddest story of the last week was the killing of 10 medical aid workers by the Taliban  in Afghanistan.  Sad not only for the people killed who only wanted to do good, sad for the vacuum left behind of health care not given to countless numbers of Afghans.

Gunmen killed 10 members of a medical team, including six Americans, traveling in the rugged mountains of northern Afghanistan.
The dead have not been officially identified, and the bodies not yet returned to Kabul, but Afghan and Western officials said the victims were thought to be members of a medical team working with a Christian charity group that has decades of experience in Afghanistan. That team, from the International Assistance Mission, lost contact with its office in Kabul on Wednesday, two days before the attack.
The dead have not been officially identified, and the bodies not yet returned to Kabul, but Afghan and Western officials said the victims were thought to be members of a medical team working with a Christian charity group that has decades of experience in Afghanistan. That team, from the International Assistance Mission, lost contact with its office in Kabul on Wednesday, two days before the attack,
The team members -- six Americans, one German, one Briton and four Afghans -- were returning from neighboring Nurestan province, where they had spent several days administering eye care to impoverished villagers. They were traveling unarmed and without security guards, Frans said.

The dead are thought to include the team's leader, Tom Little, an optometrist from New York who had worked in Afghanistan over the past four decades. Little, a fluent Dari speaker, had been thrown out of the country by the Taliban in 2001 during a crackdown on Christian aid groups. Three of the victims are thought to be women, including Karen Woo, a British surgeon who had written on her blog about the possible risks of traveling to the area
The group is registered as a Christian nonprofit organization. Although its members do not shy away from this affiliation in this conservative Muslim country, Frans and others said they do not proselytize.In their work since 1966 on health and economic development projects, under King Zahir Shah, the Russians, the mujaheddin government and the Taliban, Frans said, "all along we've been known as a Christian organization. That has been a nonissue."

"This is truly a bedrock institution in Afghanistan," said Andy M.A. Campbell, the Afghanistan country director for the National Democratic Institute. "They have been around for decades."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2010

The Man behind Cheese Doodles, dead at 90

A quintessential American life, Morrie Yohai

New York Times obit, 'Mr Cheez Doodles' Dies at 90


“Is this Mr. Cheez Doodles?” a cashier once asked Mr. Yohai’s wife, Phyllis, when he accompanied her to a local supermarket. Mrs. Yohai liked to let everyone know of her husband’s contribution to between-meal crunchies, according to a 2005 Newsday profile. Their sumptuous home overlooking Long Island Sound was “the house that Cheez Doodles bought,” she liked to say.

Mr. Yohai (pronounced yo-high) was the president of Old London Foods, the company founded by his father in the early 1920s and then called King Kone, which first produced ice cream cones and later popcorn, cheese crackers and Melba Toast.

“They were looking for a new salty snack and became aware of a machine that processed corn meal under high pressure into a long tube shape,” Robbie Yohai said on Monday. “They also discovered that if they used a high-speed blade, similar to a propeller, they could cut three-inch-long tubes, which then could be flavored with orange cheddar cheese and seasonings.” Then baked, not fried.

Although Mr. Yohai insisted on the “we” credit for the recipe, he did say that he came up with the product name.
One of his duties, he said, was sitting around a table with other executives and choosing which tiny toys would be stuffed into Cracker Jack boxes.

Newsday obit
He also was an accomplished photographer, poet, professor and businessman whose quiet wisdom left a deep impression on his family and friends.

Morrie R. Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business, then went to work for the Grumman aircraft company on Long Island.
During World War II, Yohai interrupted his career to enlist in the Navy and begin flight training, said Yohai's son, Robbie Yohai of Berkeley, Calif.

"He decided since he was making planes, he figured he could fly a plane," Robbie Yohai said of his father, who had never taken an airplane ride before. "The first time he was ever in an airplane, he was the co-pilot."

Morrie Yohai transferred to the Marine Corps and eventually served as a pilot in the South Pacific, shuttling injured troops and cargo back and forth, Robbie Yohai said
"He was excited by the experience," his son said. "He was happy to be a Marine and was very proud of it."
He left the company when Borden relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and soon began teaching at the New York Institute of Technology. He eventually became the associate dean of the school of management, Robbie Yohai said.

"It turned out that he loved teaching," Robbie Yohai said. "He could see he was making a difference in a lot of these young people's lives.

In his later years, Yohai turned his attention to Torah study, Jewish mysticism and writing. Robbie Yohai said his father wrote more than 500 poems and published two books of poetry.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink