June 30, 2013

Snake Expert Dies From Snake Bite During Presentation to Calm the Public’s Fear of Snakes

Snake Expert Dies From Snake Bite During Presentation to Calm the Public’s Fear of Snakes

A German snake expert died after being bitten multiple times by a viper during a presentation aimed at helping people ease their fears of the scaly reptiles.

Dieter Zorn, a 53-year-old herpetologist, died Tuesday evening of a heart attack minutes after he was bitten by an Aspic viper, according to Germany’s English-language newspaper The Local. Zorn was in southern France performing his “Reptile Show,” which teaches people how to overcome their fears of snakes, when he was bitten several times.

His co-host, Uschi Kallus, told The Local that Zorn died from an "extremely rare allergic reaction" to the bite, even though emergency personnel administered a blood thinner. She said he wouldn't have wanted the snake to be blamed for his death and added that the incident was "exceptionally uncommon."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 PM | Permalink

Priest beheaded by Syrian jihadists

Catholic priest beheaded in Syria by Al-Qaeda-Linked Rebels and Men and Children Take Pictures and Cheer

Syrian Catholic priest Francois Murad killed last weekend by jihadi fighters was beheaded, according to a report by Catholic Online which is linking to video purportedly showing the brutal murder.

As TheBlaze reported last week, Murad, 49, was setting up a monastery in Gassanieh, northern Syria. Last Sunday, on the Christian leader’s Sabbath, extremist militants trying to topple President Bashar Assad breached the monastery and grabbed Murad.

While earlier reports suggested Murad may have been shot to death, Catholic Online reported Saturday: “The Vatican is confirming the death by beheading of Franciscan Father, Francois Murad, who was martyred by Syrian jihadists on June 23.”

In video posted by Live Leak purporting to show the execution, dozens of men and boys are seen cheering on as three men are seated on the ground awaiting their grisly fate.

The men are methodically beheaded one at a time by men holding what appears to be a simple kitchen knife after which the heads are placed on top of the bodies.

According to Catholic Online, the first victim was Murad.

A frenzy ensues, with dozens drawing out their smartphones to capture the bloody scene, as a chorus of Allahu Akbar (“Allah is the greatest”) are sung with jihadi rapture. Several observers are seen moving within inches of the bodies in an effort to capture close-up photos.
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Vatican Radio reports that Gassanieh, a village with a majority Christian population, had been under attack by Islamist fighters for the past few weeks, forcing most residents to flee for safety.

It quotes Custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa who says, “Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. That the international community must put a stop to all this”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 PM | Permalink

Shot dead for dancing in the rain

 Dancing Sisters

Smiling sisters shot dead for dancing in the rain: Pakistani girls, 15 and 16, killed along with their mother for making video which 'stained the family honor' 

Two teenage sisters have been murdered in Pakistan after they were accused of tarnishing their family's name by making a video of themselves dancing in the rain.

The girls, aged 15 and 16, are seen running around in traditional dress with two other younger children outside their bungalow in the town of Chilas, in the northern region of Gilgit. The sisters, named as Noor Basra and Noor Sheza, appear to break into dance and one even flashes a smile at the camera.

However, when the footage was circulated via mobile phones, it caused outrage in the conservative Pakistani town.  Last Sunday the girls were shot alongside their mother in their home by five gunmen.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2013

Catholic Hospice provides Jewish end-of-life care

Rabbis from Catholic Hospice have been serving patients in the L'chaim Jewish Hospice program for 10 years.

"We recognized a need because of the large Jewish population in South Florida," said Gael Silverman, director of professional services for L'chaim Jewish Hospice. Catholic Hospice plans to open two facilities that will care for Jewish patients. One facility will be in western Broward County and the other will be in southern Miami-Dade County. The program also plans to add several rabbis who will serve assigned areas.

A young Jewish woman was Catholic Hospice's first patient when the Sisters of Mercy started the hospice under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami in 1988. The L'chaim Jewish Hospice program was born in 2003. The Archdiocese's Catholic Health Services took over Catholic Hospice in 2010.

"A Jewish tradition of care, of always putting the patient first," makes the missions of Catholic Hospice and its L'chaim program very similar, said Bonnie Alkema, Catholic Hospice executive director.

Alkema said Catholic Hospice began training its patient care staff in Judaism's "underlying foundation" and traditions in 2008. "End of life is so important. Those traditions and knowledge affect how you end your life, how you die and what you need at the time of death," she said.

Rabbi Ira Eisenman, who joined L'chaim Jewish Hospice 18 months ago, provides pastoral care and offers "counsel, comfort and advice" to patients. "I am there to answer questions and help them get through a very difficult situation and ease their [emotional] pain, if I can," he said.

Commenting on the Catholic-Jewish relationship, Eisenman said, "Our relations couldn't be better. Catholic Hospice itself is a family. We're all working together toward one goal — the best possible treatment of our patients and their families.
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"It's a two-way street," Eisenman added.

"The religious question has always been what happens after death," he said. "It has never been [about] what's hanging on the wall."

L'chaim Jewish Hospice removes crosses and crucifixes from the patient's room, if requested.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 AM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

The musical lessons of one short life

Zach Sobiech’s Simple Message — in Song — Affects Millions Worldwide

Zach Sobiech was virtually unknown in 2009, when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that took his life at age 18 on May 20.

But the Lakeland, Minn., teen’s positive attitude about facing death, humility and kindness touched millions of people across the globe, largely through his farewell song Clouds, which quickly became a YouTube sensation, garnering more than seven million views and capturing the No. 1 spot on iTunes the week after his death.

More than a thousand people attended his funeral at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, Minn. They joined his parents, Rob and Laura, and three siblings in singing the song that touched the world: “We’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. We’ll go up in the clouds, because the view is a little nicer up here, my dear. It won’t be long now.” The song bears witness to the Catholic young man’s resolution that his illness had a purpose and that God’s plan isn’t always clear from our view on earth.

Laura Sobiech said her son did a lot of soul-searching and reflecting on what it means to have faith, especially after his cancer diagnosis.
“Weeks before he died, in a conversation with me and our parish priest, he said that he understood faith isn’t just something you do, but that faith is something that can help you. Faith isn’t just action; it’s a gift,” she said.

Despite holding out hope for a miracle, the Sobiech family relied on their faith to get through the grim reports, nearly a dozen surgeries, months of hospital stays and, finally, his agonizing death at home.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

Robbers read obituaries to find out when houses will be empty

One well-known trick of robbers is reading the obituaries to find out when people will be away from their homes to attend a funeral.    If you're a neighbor looking for a way to help a grieving family, consider house sitting while they attend the funeral.

Family's home burgled while they attended funeral of their murdered son after criminals stalked obituary pages

A Kentucky family has spoken out against the thieves who ransacked their home while they were attending their murdered son's funeral.

Cindy and Dennis Higdon were already heartbroken from the tragic death of their 20-year-old son when they came home to find thieves had taken some of his keepsakes along with jewelry, guns and laptops. Police said these heartless criminals are part of a growing trend of thieves who stalk the local obituaries to discover when families won't be home,
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Christian's obituary was published in a local paper, The News-Enterprise, on June 19, 2012. Listing visitation, funeral and prayer service times for the following day, police said the obituary made it easy for Acord and Terry to target the Hidgon's home.

'It is a sick feeling to think that that person sat and literally watched us go through hell,' ….'Stuff strewn everywhere, they went through everything we own, every cabinet, everything we own,' Dennis Higdon said.

Kentucky State Police said a jewelry box, four long guns, two frills, a GPS, three laptops, an Xbox 360 Kinect, a Nintendo Wii game console and a few hundred dollars were taken from the Higdon's home.

The thieves were nabbed when Acord tried to pawn an item with a serial number at Elizabethtown Dixie Jewelry and Loan. An employee, Tyler Wright, told WAVE News the serial number was entered in an internal database and he called the police.
'It makes us feel great knowing we're able to help catch the bad apples,' Wright said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2013

Conveying a Child's Coffin

Conveying A Child's Coffin, 1879 Albert Edelfelt
Conveying a Child's Coffin , 1879 by Albert Edelfelt, a Swedish-speaking Finnish painter

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini, R.I.P.

 James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini Is Dead at 51; a Complex Mob Boss in ‘Sopranos’

James Gandolfini, the Emmy Award-winning actor who shot to fame on the HBO drama “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano, a tough-talking, hard-living crime boss with a stolid exterior but a rich interior life, died on Wednesday. He was 51.
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The success of “The Sopranos” helped make HBO a dominant player in the competitive field of scripted television programming and transformed Mr. Gandolfini from a character actor into a star. The series, created by David Chase, won two Emmys for outstanding drama series, and Mr. Gandolfini won three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama. He was nominated six times for the award.

HBO said of Mr. Gandolfini in a statement on Wednesday, “He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly, a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect.”
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James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. was born in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. His father was an Italian immigrant who held a number of jobs, including janitor, bricklayer and mason. His mother, Santa, was a high school cafeteria chef.

He attended Park Ridge High School and Rutgers University, graduating in 1983 with a degree in communications. He drove a delivery truck, managed nightclubs and tended bar in Manhattan before becoming interested in acting at age 25, when a friend took him to an acting class.

Obit Associated Press by Lynn Elber

James Gandolfini’s lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV’s indelible characters.
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Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest. He arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday and was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed, Modini said.
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Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have a daughter, Liliana, born last year, HBO said. The actor and his former wife, Marcy, have a teenage son, Michael.
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While Tony Soprano was a larger-than-life figure, Gandolfini was exceptionally modest and obsessive — he described himself as ‘‘a 260-pound Woody Allen.’’
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Director Tony Scott, who killed himself in August 2012, had praised Gandolfini’s talent for fusing violence with charisma — which he would perfect in Tony Soprano…. ‘‘a unique combination of charming and dangerous.’’

James Gandolfini was a genius, says Sopranos creator David Chase

“One of the greatest actors of this or any time,” and, “A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.” He added: “I remember telling him many times: ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”

Chase said Gandolfini brought a much more darker edge to Tony than anyone else, a harder character than Chase had envisioned in the pilot, "what got to James about The Sopranos was the cruelty in Tony's role, the sadism and the beastliness".

Dan Hodges writes, James Gandolfini had too little time to show us his greatness. But he left us Tony Soprano, and that's enough

People think Gandolfini explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within Tony Soprano. But in fact, he explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within us.
There is nothing ambiguous about Tony Soprano. He is a murderer. A thug. He betrays, in countless ways, the love and trust of those closest to him.
And yet we like him.

Variety obit

Chase’s script for “Sopranos” famously bounced around Hollywood in development for years before landing at HBO. But it took an actor of Gandolfini’s talent to breathe life into his character, particularly in the scenes depicting his one-on-one therapy sessions with the counselor Jennifer Melfi played by Lorraine Bracco.

“If you took the Melfi scenes away, you wouldn’t care about this man as much, or care about anything that was happening to him,” Gandolfini told Vanity Fair.

Stars react to sudden death of James Gandolfini.  Nothing shocks Hollywood like a beloved star dying too young

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

June 19, 2013

Death cafes

Death Be Not Decaffeinated: Over Cup, Groups Face Taboo

“Death and grief are topics avoided at all costs in our society,” said Audrey Pellicano, 60, who hosts the New York Death Cafe, which will hold its fifth meeting on Wednesday. “If we talk about them, maybe we won’t fear them as much.”

Part dorm room chat session, part group therapy, Death Cafes are styled as intellectual salons, but in practice they tend to wind up being something slightly different — call it cafe society in the age of the meetup.

 Invite Death-Cafe

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Mr. Underwood adapted the idea from a Swiss sociologist, Bernard Crettaz, who had organized “café mortels” to try to foster more open discussions of death. “There’s a growing recognition that the way we’ve outsourced death to the medical profession and to funeral directors hasn’t done us any favors,” Mr. Underwood said. He envisioned Death Cafe as “a space where people can discuss death and find meaning and reflect on what’s important and ask profound questions.”
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Doctors and scholars who study attitudes toward death say that for most people, such conversations are healthy; talking about death can ease people’s fears and the notion that death is taboo. “A major part of American society is very averse to thinking about dying,” said David Barnard, a professor of ethics at the Oregon Health and Science University who has written extensively about the end of life.

In the United States, Death Cafes have spread quickly. The first one met last summer in a Panera Bread outside Columbus, Ohio, where guests were served tombstone-shaped cookies. Since then, more than 100 meetings have been held in cities and towns across the country, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Seattle.
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The Death Cafe movement has a few ground rules. Meetings are confidential and not for profit. People must respect one another’s disparate beliefs and avoid proselytizing. And tea and cake play an important role.

“There’s a superstition that if you talk about death, you invite it closer,” said Mr. Underwood, the organizer in London. “But the consumption of food is a life-sustaining process. Cake normalizes things.”

Underwood has written a guide to running your own death cafe following the Death Cafe concept of tea, cake, conversation about death

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 PM | Permalink

Clearly a suicide

Tulsa police say a woman came home to find her husband dead in the garage.

Police said the man was found with his hands and feet bound and he had been decapitated. Police surrounded the home near 45th & Sheridan during the investigation. 

They told FOX23 they think the death was suicide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:59 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

Portraits of Things to show a Life in Objects

This is a wonderful idea for your Personal Legacy Archives.  What portraits could you make of your parents, your children or yourself?

A life in objects: Family ‘portraits’ capture the essence of a loved one by picturing their most treasured possessions

You can tell a lot by looking at someones possessions - personality, interests, likes and passions.

One Italian photographer has decided to paint a portrait of her family, but instead of using actual photographs of her relatives, we are left to imagine how they might appear based on what they own. From leather satchels and handkerchiefs to blocks of cheese and cookware, Florence-based artist Camilla Catrambone's family album is curiously captivating.

 Lives In Their Objects

The series is simply titled 'Portraits of my Family,' and displays a whole host of everyday treasures.

'I‘ve always been fascinated by objects, and I think somehow every person is represented by their personal objects, the objects they choose, the ones they are attached to, and the way they use them tells you a story,' Ms Catrambone states on her website.

'When I started doing this project, I felt that the objects belonged to my relatives, starting from the ones of my beloved grandparents, were still full of energy and were capable of reminding me moments I shared with them. I started to feel the need to use them to go back to a precise memory. In order to do that I started to reorganize these objects, to recall a specific image I had of that person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 PM | Permalink

The Death of an Edwardian Lady

A June Bouquet  Of Peonies and Edith Holden

My walk reminded me of a book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden, a British artist, teacher and self-taught naturalist who wrote and illustrated this homey diary of her excursions in 1906 in the countryside surrounding her home in Olton, Warwickshire.
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Holden could never have been sick of spring. In fact, she died from the exact opposite of what afflicted the owner of the peonies. She was over-enthusiastic.

With a rush came the memories of being totally charmed by her book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, which was republished in 1977 with great success long after her death in 1920.

 Edith Holden Country Lady

But I never knew about her death until The Thinking Housewife quoted from Wikipedia:

On Tuesday, 16 March 1920, she was found drowned in a backwater of the River Thames, near Kew Gardens Walk. On the prior Monday morning Edith had complained to Ernest of a headache, but this was not uncommon and the matter had not been dwelt on. The main subject at breakfast had been the impending visit of some friends for Easter, to which Edith was looking forward. Ernest left for the studio at St. James's Palace and Edith said that she would probably go down to the river later to see the University crews practicing.

When Ernest [her husband] returned home that evening his wife was out but the table had been laid for the evening meal, and Ernest assumed that she was with friends. It was not until the next morning that he learned the truth. Her body had been found at six o’clock on the Tuesday morning. The inquest established that she had tried to reach a branch of chestnut buds. The bough was out of reach and with the aid of her umbrella Edith had tried to break it off, fallen forward into the river and drowned.

You can see examples of her work here

She has left us a great legacy with the beauty of her paintings and illustrations, the accuracy of her observations of nature and the example she leaves of the wonder experienced by all naturalists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

Obits of note and beautiful appreciations

Professor George Gray who died at 86 led the team of chemists who made the scientific breakthrough that allows displays to be made from liquid crystals, giving birth to a multi-billion, international industry.

Andrew Doughty who died at 96 was a pioneering anaesthetist who developed the “Doughty gag”, a device which facilitates anaesthesia during the removal of tonsils and adenoids, and also promoted the use of epidural anaesthesia during childbirth.

Squadron Leader Howard (“Bert”) Houtheusen, who has died aged 97, was a noted jazz musician in the 1930s and was later awarded a DFC for landing his Sunderland flying boat on the sea off North Korea to rescue a US Navy pilot who had ditched in enemy waters.

Esther Williams, who has died aged 91, was a champion swimmer whose good looks and trim figure, especially in a one-piece bathing suit, earned her an unexpected career as a Hollywood film star.

By her own admission, she could not sing, dance or act, yet in the 1940s she was second only to Betty Grable as the world’s biggest female boxoffice draw. India named her its No 1 pin-up. What she did superlatively well was swim like an aquatic Fred Astaire.
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MGM always left the swimming scenes, which the star herself referred to as “the wet stuff”, until the end of shooting. Many of her male co-stars could not swim a stroke and, in case of accident, it was deemed prudent to ensure that “the dry stuff” was already in the can. If the actor drowned, the swimming scenes could always be covered by stand-ins or doubles.
In reality, however, Esther Williams often swam for her co-stars, using a one-armed back stroke that enabled her to support her weaker partners underwater with the other arm. In rare cases, MGM would build a platform beneath the surface so that the actor would appear to be swimming while in fact walking along the bottom of the pool.

The Quiet American Harold Benz died at 91.  As a young sailor on a destroyer minesweeper in the Pacific.  he used to hang around the radio shack because he was also  a tinkerer and eager to learn how radar worked and the guys showed him.

Then came Iwo Jima. The radio shack took a direct hit from a Japanese kamikaze. All Harold’s buddies were wiped out in an instant. The transmitters and receivers were badly damaged. It was total chaos. Without its ears, the ship was a sitting duck.

Amid the devastation, Harold was able to rig up the wires so the ship could keep fighting. From his perch in the radio tower, he saw the marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi.
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After the war, Harold vowed never to go near the ocean again….Once, when the kids were teenagers, they convinced Harold to come with them to the Jersey shore. They didn’t understand why he was so hung up about the ocean. This was the 1970s. World War II was ancient history. They practically had to drag him out of the car. He took one look at the waves and turned his back. “Still the same,” he said.
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It was never clear whether Harold was born quiet or if the war had done it to him….They say the only ones who talk about war are the ones who never saw the real action. The ones who saw the real action never talk about it.    Harold never said a word.

John  Podheretz on My Sister Rachel who died at 62 after a three year battle with stomach cancer.

So Rachel had a mother, who loved her, and she chose Norman, who loved her, and because she chose Norman she was healed to choose Elliott, who loved her, and then she made Jake and Nani and Joey with him, and they loved each other, and Nani and Josh made her first grandchild, Rapha, who loved her as she loved him. Who knows who will come next from this great choosing.

It was not enough, though. Not nearly enough. She should have had more.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

Recovering the Art of Dying

Recovering the Ars Moriendi

Throughout the history of the world, most people—like the women at the tomb—encountered death on a near daily basis. Death’s brutality over the greater part of the last two millennia cast a long shadow over everyday life as disease, famine, and infant mortality claimed victim after victim. For Christians of yesteryear, this familiarity with the pungent reality of death brought the hope of resurrection into sharp relief, not just in old age, but at every stage of life.

By contrast, Americans have largely outsourced death and dying over the last 150 years, gradually banishing it from sight and thought. Coincidentally, over the same period, many American evangelical groups have adopted a near myopic emphasis on expiation in their discussions (and presentations) of the gospel message. In a culture that sanitizes death and dying while simultaneously and self-reflectively obsessing about guilt, the need for forgiveness trumps the need for resurrection.
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Artistically, John Donne’s famous poem “Death Be Not Proud” paints a picture of death’s emasculation in the face of resurrection.  For centuries, familiarity with death gave Christian writers, pastors, theologians, and artists cause to address death and dying from a Christian perspective—not as an intellectual abstraction, but as tangible reality. Although an omnipresent human experience, the resurrection meant death held no power for Christians and therefore, they lived and died differently than other people. Rob Moll thinks they still should.

In his book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come (IVP, 2010), Moll urges American Christians to re-familiarize themselves with death that we may revive the ars moriendi—the art of dying

From the book's description.

Rob Moll recovers the deeply Christian practice of dying well. For centuries Christians have prepared for the "good death" with particular rituals and spiritual disciplines that have directed the actions of both the living and the dying. In this well-researched and pastorally sensitive book, Moll provides insight into death and dying issues with in-person reporting and interviews with hospice workers, doctors, nurses, bioethicists, family members and spiritual caregivers. He weighs in on bioethical and medical issues and gives guidance for those who care for the dying as well as for those who grieve.

This book is a gentle companion for all who face death, whether one's own or that of a loved one. Christians can have confidence that because death is not the end, preparing to die helps us truly live.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:32 PM | Permalink

We are simply too busy to die

We are simply too busy to die

There are obstacles to dignity at the end of life.  Disease inflicted pain and debilitation, cost and confusion, poor planning and fear, all aggravated by our societal ignorance regarding dying, result in unneeded suffering and isolation.  In addition, it occurs to me that a hindrance to control and quality is that we are overwhelmed by the pressure of our day-to-day lives.  In other words, we are simply too busy to die.
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We live without self-reflection, life contemplation or honest communication.  On this level five whitewater raft journey, the complex issues, presented at life’s end, are often left behind.
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For me there are two lessons to be learned.  The first is take the time, especially when you are healthy and life is “in control,” to discuss and prepare.  How would you or your family manage? Who would take care of whom?  What do they want?  How far would they push?  What about money?  Even one or two quiet family together hours at the kitchen table, so that everyone can speak and listen, can save major strife during a future time of health care chaos.

The second lesson is that when the terrible does happen, as it will to every family, pace yourself. In the absence of a true medical emergency such as trauma, heart attack or acute leukemia, there is usually time to learn, consider and plan.  Work together as a family, get good information from doctors, seek second opinions and move forward carefully.  Take the time to be in control, try not to let the events rush you forward.

Such planning is easy to say, hard too do, but methodical communication and reflection can prevent much suffering and confusion.  Which leaves the primary question for us all; if we are too busy to die, are we too busy to live?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 PM | Permalink

Online help for funeral planning

Rachel Zeldin, who holds a business degree from Drexel University, makes a good case for why her website, www.imsorrytohear.com, addresses a real need: providing reliable, local information to consumers when they're at their most vulnerable.

Online help for funeral planning

That's the position Zeldin's mother found herself in when her uncle died in January 2011 and his elderly siblings seemed overwhelmed by logistics and costs. She stepped in, with an assist from her web-savvy daughter, and both were underwhelmed by the resources they found - mostly phone book-like lists of funeral homes.

Prices were baffling, with inconsistent package deals that made comparisons difficult. Some funeral directors were less than comforting.

"When all was said and done, we ended up with a wonderful funeral," Zeldin recalls. But it was painful to reach that point. She came away thinking, "There should be a better way to do this."

She reasoned that people spend weeks or months planning other important events, such as vacations or weddings, using online resources such as TripAdvisor. Why not something similar for events that must be planned in hours or days by grieving relatives?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

Henry Hope Reed's Great Legacy of 'Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur'

Henry Hope Reed,  an architecture critic and historian whose ardent opposition to modernism was purveyed in books, walking tours of New York City and a host of curmudgeonly barbs directed at advocates of the austere, the functional and unornamented in public buildings and spaces, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 97.

 Henry Hope Reed

Remembering Henry Hope Reed

He was not so much an historian as a public advocate for the Classical spirit in all the arts – from painting and sculpture to architecture and city planning, from decorative arts to gardens, from lampposts to Central Park.

He was a tireless campaigner for beauty in the built environment, issuing such declarations as “a room without ornament is like a sky without stars” and “there is nothing sadder than a blank pediment.” A native New Yorker, he advocated for public art everywhere in his many books, essays, lectures and his famous walking tours.

NY Sun How Henry Hope Reed Saved Architecture

Mr. Reed basically invented the New York City architectural or historical walking tour, in 1956, for the Municipal Art Society. He then led his tours for the Museum of the City of New York. Those walking tours helped build the constituency for the preservation movement, which led to the Landmarks Law of 1965, and to a general revolution in urban consciousness that has yet to be adequately chronicled, yet should not be underestimated.
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Mr. Reed helped found Classical America in 1968. In the 1970s, this organization began to offer courses in drawing the classical orders - courses that had been stripped from the curricula of every architecture school in America. Later, the New York-based Institute of Classical Architecture took up the call of the classical training of architects. A few years ago, the Institute merged with Mr. Reed's organization to form the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America, of which Mr. Reed is honorary president and scholar-in-residence.
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As for Mr. Reed himself, he has in recent years done the best scholarly work of his career, producing a trio of magnificent books, each on one of the greatest buildings in America. "The New York Public Library" and "The Library of Congress "have this year been joined by "The United States Capitol: Its Architecture and Decoration" (W.W. Norton, 210 pages, $50), the book Mr. Reed was born to write. With this book he makes clear that our Capitol is not merely the beloved symbol of our democracy, but also the touchstone for all the best that has been accomplished in American architecture and in the arts of decoration.

As for that latter, the arts of decoration, Mr. Reed firmly believes, and has been saying for more than half a century, that they should not be divorced from architecture. Painting and sculpture, in Mr. Reed's view, are essential to buildings. The absence of ornamentation and decoration, of what Mr. Reed likes to call "embellishment," in modern architecture led him to coin the term "anorexic art."

Henry Hope Reed, Defender of Decoration  by Catesby Leigh

More than any cultural figure of his generation, Reed perpetuated an awareness of the classical tradition’s enduring role as the indispensable means for improving the human habitat—starting with the city, man’s greatest creation.
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Henry Hope Reed was a man with a deep appreciation for luxury, which might sound like a trait unbefitting a Christian gentleman. For Henry, the luxurious decoration of a public square, the luxurious ornamentation of a building, even the luxurious embellishment of one’s own person were essentially a matter of enriching our visual experience of the world. To be the designer or craftsman of beautiful things was to fulfill man’s natural role as what Henry called a “decorating animal.”
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General MacArthur’s famous watchwords were Duty, Honor, Country. Henry’s were Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur. These ideals were inextricably bound up in his mind with a heightening and refining of the emotions, inextricably bound up with a sense of life governed more than anything by a sense of the measure of things.
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For Henry the achievement of beauty in the arts of form offered a foretaste, perhaps the merest inkling, of that culminating glory. He also believed in embodying the noblest aspects of human endeavor in emphatically dimensional, monumental terms, with depth of relief, with depth of formal complexity. The path to grandeur lay in discerning patronage and the artist’s own depth of discipline and knowledge. These last two qualities Henry knew to be the basis of all creative liberty.

The battle he fought was against the flattening of human experience. Flat, blank facades on buildings conceived as commodities—or just oddities—rather than works of civic art; flat modernist pictorial abstractions; the flattening of cultural history into pseudo-history packaged as what Henry dismissed as “applied sociology”—all spoke to him of something far more ominous, the abasement of man and the crude negation of his proper relationship to nature as embodied in the great tradition.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 PM | Permalink

"The dark art of writing about dead people" and making obituaries entertaining and uplifting

Death as entertainment: the art of obituary writing

A discussion about obituaries proved to be a surprisingly jolly event in the Telegraph tent at Hay, as The Telegraph's obituaries editor Harry de Quetteville explained the dark art of writing about dead people.
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De Quetteville admitted it might be a little bit morbid to scan the news for announcements of famous people contracting fatal illnesses, but that ultimately “it has to be about entertainment, that’s what makes obituaries uplifting.
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Some of the obituaries that were read out included a waspish one on Fanny Cradock, the television cook, who had plastic surgery on her nose because it “cast a shadow over the food”
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But the highlight was a hilarious account of William Donaldson, “a moderately successful Chelsea pimp”, who wrote hoax letters to celebrities under the name of Henry Root. The obituary continued: “He was also a failed theatrical impresario, a crack-smoking serial adulterer and a writer of autobiographical novels.”

De Quetteville said it is crucial that obituaries are not hagiographical and that they say “he was a good friend to his friends,” adding, “the point of obituaries is that they should be revelatory. Nothing would kill off the deaths section more than being polite.”

His three tips for a good obituary.  See the video at the link.

1.  Don't be too reverential.  Look at the brave, the good and the bad
2.  It's all in the details.  Pack in the details.  More details per line in obituaries than any other form of journalism
3.  Write well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2013

"His blood ran in front of me" said mother who watched from balcony

Teenager shot dead for ‘blasphemy’ of Prophet Muhammad

A teenage boy was shot dead in front of his family in Syria after being accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

Coffee seller Muhammad al-Qatta, 15, was abducted by rebels and tortured before being gunned down in a street.

His crime was to say he wouldn't give a customer a free drink "even if Muhammad came back to earth".

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded the shocking details of the youngster's death.
The London based organisation - which has observers in Aleppo - said Muhammad was killed in front of a crowd which included his parents.
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His fanatical killers shot him in the head and neck after telling onlookers that anyone else found guilty of blasphemy would suffer the same fate.
However reports say that the phrase Muhammad spoke - or at least one similar - is commonly used in Syrian dialect.

However, because it is possible the rebel group were made up of non-Syrian natives and spoke a different dialect of Arabic, they took grave offence.

In a video posted on YouTube, his mother said she had seen Muhammad being killed from her balcony. "His blood ran in front of me," she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2013

Death by stiletto

Girlfriend, 44, killed her university professor boyfriend in luxury hotel by repeatedly plunging STILETTO heel into his head

The man stabbed to death with a stiletto heel over the weekend has been identified as a professor at the University of Houston, authorities announced today. The victim, identified as 59-year-old Alf Stefan Andersson, worked at the University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling where he focused on women's reproductive health. He'd been with the university since 2009. 

The details of the relationship between Andersson and the suspect, 44-year-old Ana Lilia Trujillo, remain unclear as authorities continue to investigate the vicious attack.

According to authorities, police were called to the Parklane Building - a luxury condominium building popular amongst professors at the nearby university - in the 1,700 block of Herman Drive in Houston's Theater District about 4 a.m. Sunday in response to an assault in progress.
When police got to the 18th floor condo, Trujillo opened the door and let officers into the unit, which is where they found Andersson in a hallway between the entryway and the kitchen.

Authorities say he was stabbed multiple times, each time, apparently, with a stiletto shoe.  Trujillo was the only one present when the body was discovered.

 Death-By-Stiletto

She has since been charged with murder

Ana Lilia Trujillo, 44, is charged with murder for striking Alf Stefan Andersson "with a deadly weapon, namely a shoe," Houston police say in the official complaint against her.

Andersson, a research professor from the University of Houston, had 10 puncture wounds on his head -- some as deep as an inch and a half -- and 15 to 20 puncture wounds along his face, arms, and neck, prosecutors say, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.

When police arrived at Andersson's apartment on Sunday, Trujillo, who had recently worked as a massage therapist, answered the door with blood on her clothes and hands; Andersson was lying in the hallway face up, with a stiletto by his head, KTRK reported, citing court records.

Trujillo had recently moved in with Andersson, and she told investigators that he grabbed her, and a struggle followed, KTRK reported.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 PM | Permalink

How's the parking?

Packing for the Final Journey

Last week my father asked me to plan his funeral. He’s dying, he knows he’s dying, and he just wants to get on with it already. He’s a practical man, and doesn’t want the burden to fall to my mother or anyone else at a time when everyone is already upset.

I waved him off, telling him we were just planning to put him on flaming ship and set it adrift. He told me not to waste the ship: a rowboat would do fine.

Being People Of A Certain Age, my parents go to a lot of funerals, so they were able to descant on the benefits and drawbacks of all the local undertaking establishments. Jessica Mitford wrote that funeral directors sell “dignity, refinement, high-caliber professional service, and that intangible quality, sincerity.” All of those things take a backseat to convenient off-street parking. There’s almost a palpable sense of irritation at dead people who get waked from places with bad parking, or long walks from the lot to the door. 

That was a helpful criteria in knocking the potential vendors down to one.  Indeed, the parking offered by the final choice was quite good, even memorable.

Parking does indeed make a difference

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 PM | Permalink

Paul Cellucci, R.I.P.

 Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci remembered for his compassion, integrity -

Former Gov. Paul Cellucci — who lost his valiant battle with ALS yesterday — was remembered as a loving family man and a compassionate politician who brought Democrats and Republicans together.

Cellucci, 65, died at his Hudson home surrounded by family, according to University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he helped raise research money for ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Paul Cellucci was simply one of the finest human beings I have ever met,” said former Gov. William Weld. “I happened to know him in the realm of politics and government, but anyone who knew him in any other arena

would have found the same man: a person of rock-hard integrity, keen intelligence, considerable humor, abundant compassion, and deep 
devotion to family and country. We are all immensely impoverished by his loss.”

Cellucci was elected lieutenant governor in 1990 and was sworn in as acting governor in 1997, when Weld left to pursue an ambassador appointment. Cellucci won his own campaign for governor the following year, but left 
office in 2001 when he was named ambassador to Canada, a position he held for four years.

Howie Carr. Paul Cellucci was not a nuisance.

That’s what H. L. Mencken  wrote on the passing of  another Republican governor of Massachusetts — Calvin Coolidge — and can there be any higher praise for a politician, especially one of the Bay State variety?
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he really always did try to do the right thing, and when he departed office in 2001, the state was in immeasurably better shape than when he and Bill Weld took over in the wreckage of the Dukakis disaster known as the Massachusetts miracle.

They were elected saying they’d cut taxes, and they cut taxes.
They said they’d work with the Democrats in the Legislature, and they did. Maybe because Cellucci was almost a Democrat, not in the new pejorative RINO sense, but just as an average guy who went along to get along.

Joe Fitzgerald  We'll remember how he lived

When you’ve been the governor of a politically vibrant state like Massachusetts, and the U.S. ambassador to a prominent neighbor such as Canada, no more needs to be said about your substance and your skills.
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He died the way he lived, a man of towering integrity whose greatest quality was knowing what really matters in life.

Boston Globe.  Paul Cellucci, former governor and US ambassador to Canada, dies at 65 from ALS

Mr. Cellucci, whose political experience spanned more than three decades and who never lost an election, was central to the creation of a new brand of Massachusetts Republicans, built on fiscal conservative principles, a strong environmental agenda, and advocacy of liberal social policies.

His close personal and political association with Governor William F. Weld, with whom Mr. Cellucci served as lieutenant governor, set the stage for a Republican resurgence in the 1990s that broke the Democratic liberal grip on Beacon Hill policymaking.
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While Mr. Cellucci spent four years as President George W. Bush’s ambassador in Ottawa and wielded huge influence on Beacon Hill, he never moved from Hudson, the small working-class town midway between Boston and Worcester that formed his character and his political instincts. He was the only governor in the past few decades to speak with a distinct Massachusetts accent.

“He was a completely different type of governor in terms of his background,” said Rob Gray, who served as a chief political adviser to Mr. Cellucci.
“Growing up outside the Boston-Route 128 bubble and continuing to hang out with average people on a daily basis really shaped his views of the issues,” said Gray, president of Gray Media Group. “Paul was staunchly antitax and very frugal when it came to the budget, but he knew that certain types of government spending helped average people. He wasn’t just symbolically a man of the people; that’s what he really was.”
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Mr. Cellucci’s election as governor in his own right in 1998 was an important personal triumph over the media and political skeptics who viewed him as a minor figure. He handily beat back a spirited challenge from Joe Malone, a popular state treasurer, in the GOP primary, then defeated the sitting attorney general, Scott Harshbarger.

In a statement, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, “Our city and our Commonwealth will miss him deeply and his type — a leader who wanted to help people.

“He was one of the very first people to reach out after I became mayor to offer a hand, and he did that over and over again. I will never forget what Governor Cellucci meant to Boston and to me.”
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In 2011, Mr. Cellucci teamed up with Weld in what he called his “last campaign,” to raise money for Brown’s ALS research at UMass Medical School. “This is a big, big cause and they’re getting very close not just to ALS but a lot of other neuro-degenerative diseases,” Mr. Cellucci said.
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The fund has raised $1.7 million.
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“He managed America’s closest ally very well during an extremely challenging time,” Card said.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Canadian airports agreed to take in more than 200 planes diverted from the United States, and Canadian citizens opened their doors to thousands of stranded passengers and crew.

“Paul helped manage that phenomenal hospitality, and he traveled the breadth and width of Canada to thank people,” said Card, who had served as Bush’s chief of staff.

Mr. Cellucci also worked to get Canada to join the US coalition on the war against terror. And later, when Bush visited Canada, Mr. Cellucci had to deal with the antiwar protesters.

“He was highly respected by the Canadian government, business leaders, and the people,” said Card.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 AM | Permalink

June 8, 2013

Happiness gurus commit suicide

What can you say about the two 'happiness gurus' found dead at New York home after leaving suicide notes saying "We're going to do this together'.

Suicide notes were found with the bodies of a couple who took their own lives last week, police sources said.

Lynne Rosen, 46, and John Littig, 48, who worked as 'happiness gurus' and motivational speakers, allegedly left two notes at their home in Brooklyn, New York.

Mr Littig's note said that the couple 'were going to do this together' amid reports that Ms Rosen had suffered from psychological problems, according to the New York Daily News.

Despite the fact they lived in Park Slope, an affluent area of Brooklyn,  their their bodies lay undiscovered for a week, so you have to wonder whether they had any support apart from each other.    It sounds like a Folie à deux, a madness shared by two.  Just speculation, but I wonder if it was brought on by a belief that they should be happy all the time and life wasn't worth living if they weren't.  It's hard to accept the sorrows and losses of life, yet it is the reality of the human condition.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2013

Suspected murderer buried alive by angry mourners

Bolivian man buried alive with body of woman he is suspected of murdering

Villagers in Bolivia's southern highlands buried a teenager alive in the grave of a woman he was suspected of having raped and murdered, an official has said.

Police had identified 17-year-old Santos Ramos as the possible culprit in the attack on 35-year-old Leandra Arias Janco last Sunday in a Quechua community near the municipality of Colquechaca, said José Luis Barrios, the chief prosecutor in Potosí province, where the community is located.

More than 200 enraged locals seized Ramos and buried him alive alongside his alleged victim on Wednesday night, according to Barrios. He said that the following day, residents blocked the road to the community, preventing police and prosecutors from reaching it.

A reporter for an indigenous radio station, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Associated Press that Ramos was tied up at the woman's funeral. Mourners threw him into the open grave, placed the woman's coffin in it and filled the grave with earth.

Colquechaca is a town of 5,000 inhabitants located 200 miles south-east of Bolivia's capital, La Paz.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2013

'They were screaming "we're going to die, we're going to die"'

Tragic last words of father-and-son storm chasers killed when tornado threw their car somersaulting half a mile

A father-and-son team of storm chasers and their long-time partner were heard screaming 'we're going to die, we're going to die' on highway patrol radio moments before they were killed by one of the savage twisters they'd devoted their lives to following.

Tim Samaras, 55, along with his son, Paul Samaras, 24, and Carl Young, 45, died on Friday in El Reno after a tornado that packed winds of up to 165 mph picked up their car and threw it, somersaulting, a half a mile.  The elder Samaras' body was still belted into their Chevrolet Cobalt, which was found on an unimproved county road parallel to Interstate 40. The other victims' bodies were found half a mile to the east and half a mile to the west, Canadian County under-sheriff Chris West said.


 Stormchasers

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But before their stalking of the dangerous vortex turned deadly, their cries could be heard by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph. 'They were screaming, "We're going to die, we're going to die,"' she recalled to USA Today. 'There was just no place to go. There was no place to hide.'  According to Mr West, their vehicle looked ' like it had gone through a trash compactor' when it was found.
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The news comes as the death toll from Friday's tornadoes and storms in Oklahoma has risen to 18 people, including six children and 12 adults, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner said on Monday.  Officials added five victims on Monday to the confirmed list of dead from the tornadoes and from storms that caused severe flooding: three adults and two unidentified children, the medical examiner's office said.

Sincere condolences to all the families who lost a loved one.    May they rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2013

Police dog bids farewell to slain cop

 Policedog Farewell Slain Cop

Police dog bids farewell to slain cop

More than 1,000 people—including hundreds of fellow police officers from surrounding states—turned out at a funeral in rural Kentucky late last week to pay their respects to Jason Ellis, a 33-year-old K-9 officer gunned down last month in what authorities believe was an ambush.

Fido, Ellis' police dog, was there, too, placing his paw on the closed casket—a moment captured in a heartbreaking image by photographer Jonathan Palmer.

Fido was not with Ellis on May 25 when he was shot multiple times while collecting debris on a highway off-ramp in Bardstown, Ky., a close-knit community of about 12,000 located 40 miles southeast of Louisville. Ellis' slaying remains unsolved.

Dozens of fellow K-9 officers attended the funeral and, according to the Herald Leader, their dogs could be heard barking from their cruisers:

Hundreds of officers snapped to attention when the honor guard was called; the 60 or so police dogs at the ceremony barked with the sound of the guards' 21-gun salute.

Ellis, a six-year veteran of the police force, was remembered by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, who pledged to hunt down the killer.

"I am your chief, Jason, but you're our hero and you need to know this chief will not stand down," McCubbin said. "Jason, my friend, rest easy. We've got it from here."

Ellis is survived by his wife, Amy, and two sons: Hunter, 7, and Parker, 6.

"He paid the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved, being a police officer," McCubbin added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

"I didn't want him to go"

I didn't want him to go: Widow's anguish after sports-mad husband drowns white water rafting on Alaska trip

A British father drowned after he was persuaded to try whitewater rafting for the first time on some of the world’s most difficult rapids.  Businessman Stephen Morton, 47, had just finished climbing North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley in Alaska.

But after completing the 19-day expedition, his three Dutch teammates – who were all experienced rafters – encouraged him to try the extreme sport before flying home.
The boat carrying Mr Morton tipped over entering a dangerous category-five rapid known as the Zig Zag.

All the men were thrown out of the raft, but Mr Morton struggled to recover in the icy cold water.
He was pulled out and taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Last night, his grieving widow said she didn’t want her husband to pursue dangerous hobbies, but hadn’t stopped him in case he regretted missing out.
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‘He phoned before he left for the rafting trip. He was so happy to have summited safely and was so happy to be coming home, talking about the gifts he was about to buy for the kids.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2013

'Just one more picture'

'Just one more picture': Last words of water sports photographer, 28, before he drowned 'in whirlpool' off river estuary

A photographer drowned taking close-up pictures of a whirlpool just seconds after he apparently told friends 'I just want one more photograph'.

Jacob Cockle, 28, was trying to capture footage of the dangerous tidal phenomenon at the Carnsew Pool in the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall.  The disused man-made waterway was constructed by the Victorians in 1830 and was originally built to flush sand from the harbour.

Friends say Jacob was in the water to take photographs of the large, fast-moving whirlpools it creates when he was sucked under. But they claimed he was pulled into the swirling vortex of water when he paddled too close to get the perfect photo.

Jacob was pulled out of the water before RNLI lifeboat crews tried to revive him. He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, where he was later pronounced dead
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink