Obituary on the Cheap

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

John and Mary Smith had ordinary names, but their extraordinary 60-year marriage was anything but that, ending with her death one year ago.

It had to be a marriage made in heaven, because they hardly had any planning time during a six-week courtship between their initial blind date and wedding in 1961.

Dr. Don Newbury

They defied norms in many ways, including construction of an octagonal-sided home which has no hallways, and travel that took them to many parts of the world. Parents of two adult sons, they crowded much into their years together.

John tried hard to keep pace, but Mary set a tough course. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years, sporting a ’73 Mercedes convertible as her “school car” for almost two decades.

An accountant, John has busied himself in community service during most of his adult life.

He and Mary spent many hours laughing, often at themselves. One such time was when they wrote “fake” obituaries about each other. He emphasizes they were “fake” in the purest form, unlike “fake news” bandied about so much these days.

Mary’s obituary about him was a “cake-taker.” Learning that the newspaper ran the first five words of obituaries free, she wrote of him: “John died. Mercedes for sale.”

John, who spends several hours each week as a volunteer staffer for the Burleson Heritage Museum, has been providing transportation services since my October heart attack prevents driving for six months.

We discovered many parallels in our lives. I mentioned that I was 84 years of age; he nodded that he also is 84. I asked when he was born.

He gave a bogus answer. “In 1936,” he said, balking when I responded that there is no way he could be 84 with a birth date in 1936.

“Just to make sure I haven’t lost count, I intend to visit the cemetery,” John said. “I’ve got a tombstone in place, and they’ve already chiseled my date of birth.” He must have determined that he had indeed misplaced one year, since he hasn’t mentioned it again.

In my hometown of Brownwood, the Lyric Theatre is going great guns. The theatre first opened in 1914, featuring live shows in the early going. It was a movie house for several decades before TV took its toll on motion picture theatres in the late 1950s and 1960s.

At the turn of the century, several local figures mounted a drive to raise $2 million to restore the darkened theatre. A decade later, they had $4 million in hand, and the theatre now is nothing short of spectacular by all measures.

 Anyways, Eric Evans is managing director, and he has a now four-decades old email address with America Online. Quite simply, the email address is Gene Deason, longtime editor of the Brownwood Bulletin and a member of the theatre’s board of directors, was bumfuzzled by the email address. He had figured it to read “e-rice-vans,” and was red-faced when someone pointed out his dividing syllables in the wrong places.

On another note, it was announced recently that aerospace futurists are working on production of a largely-silent supersonic plane. Somehow, this doesn’t square with me. It seems to me that some things are expected to be loud, including supersonic jets hurtling through space.

Such an account reminds me of the old farmer on the high plains who decided to visit the Lubbock airport, mostly because he’d never been to one, since he never intended to fly. He was taken aback by the posted schedule calling for a 10:00 a.m. flight that would arrive in El Paso at 10:05 a.m. (It hadn’t occurred to him that they’d gain an hour flying west.)

Whatever, the agent asked him if he’d like to buy a ticket. “No way I’m getting on that airplane,” the farmer stiffened, “But I do think I’ll hang around long enough to watch it take off.”

   Dr Newbury, longtime university president, continues to write weekly and speak throughout Texas. Contact him at: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury

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