June 29, 2006
Perky Obit Girl
My love of journalism started in high school, when I confronted the cafeteria manager at my public -- predominantly Jewish -- high school about why there was no matzah available during Passover. I've always loved keeping people informed, so journalism seemed like a natural career path. When I came to The Journal as a copy editor and had the opportunity to write and edit stories and interview celebrities (both real and pseudo), I couldn't have imagined a better job.
Then came the curveball: In addition to writing and editing, I was asked to coordinate the obituaries. Ouch. The girl with the Mickey Mouse doll perched atop her computer was faced with handling grief on a daily basis.
It's strange to be the "Perky Obit Girl," as I've been dubbed by my colleagues. That part of my job mostly involves processing the listings from L.A. Jewish mortuaries.
Sometimes I'll get a heartwarming listing for someone who lived into their early 100s, did tons for the community and had great-great-grandchildren. And because we're in Tinseltown, I occasionally have a brush with fame. When the former husband of "Gilligan's Island" actress Dawn Wells died, she faxed in the notice on her own palm tree-adorned stationery.
On the flip side, there are the ones about the family of three who was killed in a car accident; the 20-something who was lost at sea.
And then there are the odd requests that take me by surprise. One mortuary notice listed the sibling as: Puppy Brewster. Thinking that "Puppy" was a nickname, I ran it as: sister, Puppy Brewster. The family was incensed, and called to complain. Brewster was the name of the deceased man's dog.
When I tell people what I do, I always take pride in ending with: "....and I coordinate the obituary page." Sometimes I get a smile, sometimes a wince, but more often than not I get every journalist's dream answer: "I faithfully read it every week."