Ms. Ebelhar

Ms. Elizabeth Ebelhar, longtime scheduler of the Blessed Sacrament altar boys died a couple weeks ago. She was 98 and in a Catholic nursing home late in life (photo, low on the page). A decade earlier, she’d called my family’s house on many Fridays, as was her practice, reminding Rob or I of our Masses on that weekend’s schedule.

Her obituary, as obituaries sometimes do, surprised me.

Ms. Ebelhar, a native of Owensboro, Ky., joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1942. She was promoted to platoon sergeant and was in charge of training 60 female soldiers while stationed in Des Moines.

She eventually was sent to Europe, where she was among the troops who marched down the Champs-Elysees in Paris at the end of World War II.

Notice is here.

Johnny Oates

From the AP:

“Gloria said one of their prayers was that he would be in Heaven before Christmas,” Showalter said. “I bet there will be a heck of a baseball game up there tomorrow … no, the day after tomorrow. It will take John time to get organized.”

From the Washington Post:

“This is not a script I’ve written for myself,” Oates said in a 2002 interview. “I’d rather be managing a ballclub somewhere. But this is what I’ve been dealt. And I’m at peace with it.”

From the Baltimore Sun:

“I don’t know how I could make it without the peace the Lord has given me,” Oates would say. “It’s a peace only he can give. There are always going to be those who are skeptical, but I am thankful for the mercy and the peace.”

Cardinal Hickey

The former leader of Washington’s Catholic church died a Sunday ago, the Post reports. The paper’s obituary is well done.

One sentence, for me, stands above the rest: “Catholics who disagreed with Hickey’s position on these issues, however, were inspired by him in other matters.” While used as a transition in the story, the sentence does an effortless summary of the Catholic churchgoer in modern and metropolitan America. The juxtaposition of dissent and belief goes on.

During grade school, I was lucky enough to be an altar server for a Mass the cardinal said at Blessed Sacrament. There were about six of us as servers; my job was holding his mitre cap (making me the “Mitre Man,” said a next-door neighbor). When we met Cardinal Hickey before Mass, we weren’t sure how to greet him. We knew protocol was to kneel and kiss the episcopal bling on his hand, but that seemed kind of old school. We were all impressed when he extended a handshake to each of us.

How a song is written

The obituary of Donald Yetter Gardner tells how.

He wrote the song in 1947 while filling in for his wife as teacher of a grade-school class in Smithtown, N.Y., during the holiday season. He asked the class what they wanted for Christmas, and when they hissed and lisped their answers, he noticed that almost all of them had at least one front tooth missing.

Gardner then wrote All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, a song that once drove my extended family bonkers at the annual Christmas tree cutting — long story involved a poorly drawn awl — but has gained popularity nonetheless.

The song has been recorded dozens of times by artists as diverse as Spike Jones, George Strait and Mariah Carey. Mr. Gardner’s favorite version was recorded by Nat King Cole.

Gardner died earlier this month at age 91.

In addition to reprinting the famous song’s lyrics, the Los Angeles Times noted that he was 31 years old when he wrote the song. His local paper, the Wellesley Townsman, noted his sons’ memories of him and how he once made a hole-in-one.

Most honest lede of the bunch

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary:

Most Americans under 40 know Alistair Cookie, the furry host of “Monsterpiece Theater,” a feature on TV’s “Sesame Street.”

Far fewer would connect the Muppet to its inspiration, the man whose elegance, style and wit represented television’s once lofty ideals, the same ideals that created the pioneering children’s program.

Muppet Central thread: Favorite Monsterpiece Theater segments thread: Monsterpiece Theater

This explains many things

“Tex” Henson, who died last week, supervised the animation for my beloved Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The animation was done at a studio in Mexico, which apparently made the job all the more interesting. A decade ago, he talked to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about their process:

“We were hackin’ ’em out on the cheap, getting’ the job done,” he said, adding that most of his employees did not speak English or understand the humor of their work.

“But we made ’em as funny-looking as we could under the circumstances and I guess something clicked between the writing and the cartooning.”