I enjoy reading the obituaries in the Cumberland Times-News as a way of learning about area neighbors I have never met. We live among fascinating people.
I read occasionally about a person whose life accomplishments were resplendent, accumulating international merit and the accompanying fame. At other times, I’ll find out about a person who lived a quiet local life, but who was considered to be a genius in some esoteric subject or industry that was known about by a small percentage of humankind. Perhaps that person invented a thumb-sized gizmo that was necessary for a large-sized gizmo (an airplane maybe) to operate safely at 30,000 sky feet.
The obits I particularly enjoy are a bit more simple. Perhaps one includes a line about a Mount Savage woman in her 80s who took great pride in the rhubarb pies she baked or about a Maysville, West Virginia, mechanic who always kept his 1955 Chevy spotless and in perfect working order.
I’m making these up so don’t try to figure out real people. There are many obits, though, that include similar references.
We live in an area where hunting and fishing is a way of life. Thus, obits often state that the deceased really enjoyed one or the other or both. There are times when the photo of the loved one that accompanies the obit shows him or her holding a nice trout or posing with a buck deer that has been dropped, maybe with a rifle that has been passed down through the family.
I love the deeper hunting and fishing references that sometimes are in an obituary. For example, it may read “So-and-so (the deceased) is now with (names of several friends who have passed away) at a perpetual deer camp, telling lies, missing bucks, burning beans and having an occasional nip of hooch.”
Or, you may read that “(Name goes here) was an avid angler. The massive bluegill she caught from (Whatever) Pond is still considered to be the largest to come from there. She taught all of her grandchildren how to fish.”
Obits sometimes include a note that the deceased was a hunter education instructor or taught fishermen how to tie flies. I occasionally read an obit that tells the public that being a member or an officer of some local rod-and-gun club was an important part of the person’s life.
Some people have taken great pride in conducting fishing rodeos for young anglers. Their obituaries have told us so.
Obits often let us know that the recently departed has chosen to be buried at a sacred location, something such as the family camp along the river. Others select to have their ashes turned loose from a tree stand or upon some riffles where so many a pleasant hour had been spent.
The celebrations of life that follow the funerals of hunters and anglers sometimes take place at deer camps or rod-and-gun clubs. As part of the gathering, the hook-and-bullet accomplishments of the person who has died/passed away/transitioned are noted with much respect as elixirs of choice wash down the fine foods that had been prepared in the person’s honor. Those eats likely include some barbecued venison or catfish filets.
I remember my own father’s military honors at Rocky Gap Veteran’s Cemetery, when a group of outdoor friends showed up in full camouflage as a tribute to him.
For many folks in this splendid part of the planet, when their times come, in lieu of flowers it is better to bring fish hooks or shotgun shells.
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