Obituaries for a great obituary writer

Mourning the other day the continued existence of the L.A. wedding section, I went to look at its org opposite, my beloved LAT obituaries section, but couldn’t find any crafting I especially liked. Sadness.

Checking back today, I love this one.

Ice Capades star Donna Atwood had spent almost half her life on the road when she left professional figure-skating behind at 31 to raise her three young children in a custom-built Beverly Hills home complete with a piano that folded into the wall.

She was so famous that Times headlines from the era used only her first name. “Donna to Retire in 1956 for Home Life,” said one atop an article that portrayed her as longing to “trade it all in for ‘home, sweet home.’ “

Same with the man who built Knott’s Berry Farm attractions.

But what makes me think of obituaries today? Via The Morning News feed, the Economist obituary for its obituaries editor, Keith Colquhoun.

When he took over the Obituaries in 1995, just after their launch, he kept the Asian flag flying. He also set an extraordinary standard for clear, dry, witty writing. The openings of his Obituaries were a particular delight. “One of Walter Lini’s minor pleasures was to get the better of the French.” “The achievement of Karl Kehrle, a Benedictine monk, was to breed a very decent British bee.” Or this:

Hunting around for something not too brutal to say about Tiny Rowland now that he is dead, those who knew him have remarked on his charm. The English language is helpful with the evasive word.

Beautiful! I had no idea. May use my LivingSocial Amazon deal to buy his Economist Book of Obituaries. The Internet giveth and the Internet…

In the Guardian, Colquhoun’s wife writes a brief obituary, managing in four paragraphs to fit “He then became obituaries editor, where he used his talents to turn each life into an elegant short story, drawing on his knowledge of politics, history and current affairs, combined with a peerless ability to put the boot in, when needed” and in the previous graf, “He also had an unwanted place in a 1970s scandal, when his first wife, Maureen, then Labour MP for Northampton North, went off in a blaze of publicity with a woman.”

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