It's an awful thing to admit, but I read the obituaries in the newspaper before I read anything else. Some people say it's a good day if your name isn't there.
The "best" obituaries, if that word can be used in such a circumstance, are the ones that tell who a person really was during his or her lifetime. That's not to say they were famous, but what stories they would tell if they could talk.
I read with great interest the recent obituary for Capt. Robert E. King. What an interesting man he must have been. I wish I could have interviewed him.
King served aboard the Liberty ship SS Charles E. Poston during World War II, delivering supplies and ammunition for the war. His ship made 12 runs transporting troops from Liverpool, England, to the Omaha Beachhead during the invasion of Normandy. He went on to serve again in the Korean and Vietnam wars. I can only imagine the experiences a man would face during such trying times.
Later, he sailed for the United States Lines, and his wife, Arline, took care of the orchard they owned and raised their children on the Mace Chasm Road in Keeseville. Imagine what Arline's days and nights must have been like with her husband at sea, and the challenges of parenting and business. Their children, grandchildren and family can be justly proud of such a wonderful heritage.
Our older citizens are passing away and taking their stories with them. The farmer who started out with horses to plow the fields, the teacher who began her career in a one-room schoolhouse or somebody who grew up in the big city during the early 1900s; they all have a story to tell that they probably don't think is important. From where I stand, as a journalist and a genealogy researcher, there is always somebody who will be mesmerized by what you have to share.
Grab hold of pencil and paper, and start writing down what you remember, and let someone close to you know what you are doing. If you're not good at writing, call on somebody who will sit with you and just let you reminisce while they take notes. The ultimate chronicle would be a video interview. We live in an amazing age of technology, and there is always a way to create memories and save historical information for others to enjoy.
My mother, Jean (Johnson McGibbon) Goddard, grew up in England during World War II. A few years ago, I videotaped her talking about what it was like. She told about being awakened in the middle of the night, having to run to the partially underground bomb shelter her dad had built in the backyard and staying there while the bombs whizzed overhead. (She said their bomb shelter was "luxurious" compared to others, thanks to her talented father.) She talked about her grandmother, who was in a wheelchair, being placed in the enclosure under the stairway for protection because she couldn't get into the bomb shelter. That was the sturdiest part of the house. Her father stood in the doorway of the house, halfway between his family and his invalid mother, in case of a nearby hit.
She also talked about saying goodbye at the train station to her younger brother and sister, who were sent to Wales to live with country families they didn't know, just to keep them safe. After nearly a year, her mother and father couldn't stand the family being separated and brought them home, much to everyone's relief. The family was together again and, thankfully, stayed together safely throughout the war.
In the scheme of time, our life here is very short. We need to make the best of it that we can. I have a little reminder taped to my computer: "Time and memory are precious. They are slipping away second by second. Before we know it, both are gone." Take time to remember, spend time with family and friends, and leave a story that may inspire future generations. Your life story is a gift nobody else can give.
One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.
Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at email@example.com.