Do you need to write an obituary?
What have others written in an obituary?
Would you like to see a sample obit?
We know you may be reading this article because you have recently lost a loved one or you may have a close friend or family member who is sick. So, we first want to say that we are sorry for your loss or for your loved one who is not well. Losing a person who means so much to you is always a difficult time in your life. At Lastly.com, we do understand this. And we’ve made it our mission to help your through the stages of grief as much as possible.
Many people wonder how to best write an obituary, what to include, and what the best format is for obituary writing. We’ll cover all of that here. And although there’s no legal requirement to write an obituary at any time, it’s usually done as a matter of tradition, respect, and convenience to the deceased and to those in the community. Here’s what you need to know about writing an obituary along with a few sample obituaries.
What Is an Obituary?
After a death, and even preceding a death, there are many tasks that need to be handled. One of these tasks is writing an obituary. An obituary is a brief summary of a person’s life, usually including the names of family members, arrangement information for a funeral or memorial service, and preferences regarding flowers and donations.
An obituary is typically written by a close family member or friend, and it can be written either before or after a person dies. The purpose of an obituary is to notify the general public about a person’s recent death and to provide information about the person and any related memorial services, including to those who may not have been close to the deceased in recent years.
An obituary can also serve several purposes. In addition to appearing in publications both printed and online, all or part of an obituary can be used in a funeral program, in a memorial program, as a death notice, and as the beginning of a longer eulogy.
When to Publish an Obituary
You’ll want to publish an obituary as soon as possible, usually about one to two days prior to any public services. Generally, funeral services and memorial ceremonies are held within about one week of a person’s death. So, there’s not a lot of time. You’ll need to write the obituary as quickly as possible, have a professional review it, and print it in various publications and online at least a few days prior to any scheduled services. This gives any extended family, friends or community members enough time to plan to attend the deceased’s services.
Where to Publish an Obituary
Fortunately, there are many ways to let everyone know about a person’s death and inform them about any upcoming memorial or funeral services. When getting ready to publish an obituary, keep in mind that each publication will have a submission deadline as well as possible space limitations. Some newspapers and other publications may also charge a fee, depending on the length of your obituary. So, it’s best to call in advance and write down this information for every publication you want to consider.
Here is a list of possible publications for your obituary.
- Community newspaper(s)
- Community magazine(s)
- Industry publication(s)
- Alma mater publication
- Church / religious organization publication
- Company / business publication
- Funeral home website
- Newspaper from places the deceased lived for an extended time
- Other website or online publication
- Other newspapers, magazines or publications
A Typical Obituary Outline or Sample Format
As previously mentioned, an obituary usually includes the names of those close surviving family members and friends who have survived the deceased, as well as those who preceded the deceased in death. An obituary will also include information regarding where they lived, worked, and volunteered; any funeral, memorial or other services; as well as the deceased’s preferences for flowers, memorial donations, or other items of importance. You will typically find this information at either the very beginning or at the end of an obituary.
In addition to the above standard information, obituaries today are trending toward being a bit longer and including more personal information about the deceased person, including their life, their personality, and what they enjoyed most. Some may consider an obituary today to be somewhat of a mini-eulogy. And, in fact, an obituary can be used as a starting point for a eulogy.
The key here is to choose what’s important to say. How did your loved one make an impact? How would he or she want to be remembered? And what did they contribute to the world in their lifetime?
Here are a few sample obituary templates to help get you started. You can also find many free and printable obituary templates and funeral program templates online.
Sample Obituary Template #1
Name of Deceased Person
Year of Birth
Date of Death
Spouse's or Significant Other's Name
Brothers and Sisters
Organizations and Memberships
Awards, Honors, Achievements
Date, Time, Location of Funeral Service and Visitation
A Closing Quotation, Song Lyric, Scripture, etc.
Sample Obituary Template #2
Full Name of Deceased (include nicknames, AKA, aliases)
Age of Deceased
Residence (city and state)
Employment, Clubs, Memberships, and Affiliations
Hobbies and Interests
Surviving Spouse or Partner
Children (including surviving spouses/partners)
Grandchildren (including surviving spouses/partners, if not too many to list)
Great-Grandchildren (number or list of full names)
Siblings (including surviving spouses/partners)
Predeceased Relatives (preceded in death by)
Memorial Contributions (in lieu of flowers)
Funeral Service Details (visitation, church, chapel or graveside services)
Cemetery for Burial
Include a Photo and/or Emblem (such as military logo, etc.)
A Few More Things About Obituaries
When providing an obituary to be printed, whether online or in print, try to furnish a recent picture of your loved one. Sometimes people provide a photo taken many years earlier, and this is OK. However, you many want to consider a more recent photo, as they would be more recognizable to community members. If you are printing an obituary in a publication in a former town or city of residence, you may want to consider a photo from that time frame.
A printed or online publication will size your photo to their specifications. If you are posting to a private website, blog or other publication, you may need to size each photo appropriately in advance.
Be sure to use a readable font when writing and submitting your obituary. Printed publications typically prefer a highly readable serif font, such as Times New Roman. Online publications usually prefer a sans serif font, such as Arial.
Types of Obituaries
First, there’s no such thing as a perfect obituary in terms of style or writing. So, we want to let you off the hook there. Obituaries range from a wide variety of styles. Some may be traditional and straightforward, while others may be funny or filled with personality. Some obituaries can be shorter, and others may be longer. And some tell the life story about the deceased, who they were, what they accomplished while they were alive, and the mark that they left behind in the world.
We’ve included a few different sample obituaries here for you to read. You might ask yourself, What makes these particular obituaries great? Although these two obituaries vary greatly in length, the simple fact is that these obituaries tell a story about the deceased and include elements of their lives and why they mattered. Depending on your loved one, you may have more or less to say. Most any length for an obituary is acceptable; however, you’ll need to tailor it to the publication.
Sample Obituary: John Ross Milton
Northborough — John Ross Milton, 86, died Sunday, June 8, 2008 at the Overlook Masonic Health Center in Charlton following a brief illness.
He leaves his wife of 65 years, Shannon (Jacobs) Milton; his son, Robert Milton and his companion, Sadie Strong; his daughter, Pamela Milton; his cousin, Raymond Milton; two grandchildren; and many close friends.
Born and raised in Worcester, the son of Carl and Helene Pauline (Preston) Milton, he was a lifelong resident of Northborough.
In his early years, Mr. Milton would help sell milk for the family's business, Milton Milk. After graduating from North High School in 1941, he attended Clark University, graduating in 1945 with a bachelor's degree in Economics. He met his wife, Shannon Jacobs, at church and they were married in 1944 at Wesley United Methodist Church. In 1945, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, where he was a Seaman, First Class.
After serving with the Coast Guard, Mr. Milton had the opportunity to join the Traveler's Insurance Company in Worcester. In 1948, he started the John Ross Insurance Agency, a partner of Insurance Services of Worcester. He not only took pride in his business, but truly relished the friends he made during his time in business. Over the years, his insurance expertise and reputation led him to be named the top Life Insurance Agent for Traveler's Insurance Co.
Mr. Milton had a passion for animals and was the head dog trainer for Shrewsbury Dog Training Club. For years, he would enroll his award-winning German shepherds into dog shows, where he won numerous ribbons and awards.
An avid golfer, he was a longtime member of Worcester Country Club, the Worcester Club and the infamous Pinehurst Country Club in NC. He served on the board of directors for Worcester Country Club and First United Methodist Church of Westborough.
A funeral service was held June 12 from Hays Funeral Home of Northborough, with private burial.
Sample Obituary: Mary A. "Pink" Mullaney
Mullaney, Mary A. "Pink" If you're about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop. Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as "Pink") who entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New "Joisey", and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life.
We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments. Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay. Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them. Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass. Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone's name, share their patron saint's story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to "listen with an accent." Never say mean things about anybody; they are "poor souls to pray for." Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats. Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged. Do the Jumble every morning. Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don't get lost. Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio. Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is "Peat Moss." Help anyone struggling to get their kids into a car or shopping cart or across a parking lot. Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online. Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass. Take magazines you've already read to your doctors' office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, "Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice."
In her lifetime, Pink made contact time after time. Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back.
Above all, Pink wrote - to everyone, about everything. You may read this and recall a letter from her that touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"
She is survived by her children and grandchildren whose photos she would share with prospective friends in the checkout line: Tim (wife Janice, children Timmy, Joey, T.J., Miki and Danny); Kevin (wife Kathy, children Kacey, Ryan, Jordan and Kevin); Jerry (wife Gita, children Nisha and Cathan); MaryAnne; Peter (wife Maria Jose, children Rodrigo and Paulo); and Meg (husband David Vartanian, children Peter, Lily, Jerry and Blase); siblings Anne, Helen, and Robert; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends and family too numerous to list but not forgotten.
Pink is reunited with her husband and favorite dance and political debate partner, Dr. Gerald L. Mullaney, and is predeceased by six siblings.
Friends (and strangers she would love to have met) can visit with Pink's family at the Feerick Funeral Home on Thursday, September 5, from 3 until 7 PM with prayer service at 6:45 PM. Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Whitefish Bay on Friday, September 6, at 3 PM.
Dress comfortably with a splash of pink if you have it.
In Pink's memory donations may be made to Dominican High School, 120 E. Silver Spring Dr., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217, or Saint Monica Parish, 160 E. Silver Spring Dr., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217, or any charity that seeks to spread the Good News of Pink's friend, Jesus. Valet Parking in front of the funeral home on Thursday.