My wonderful daughter Jessica took on the task of getting the obituary of her grandfather, Wade Dickinson, published after his death in November. She worked on this for weeks.* It turns out that there are few obituaries considered news: most are paid for by the family. After much research, we chose to publish my father’s obituary in two newspapers:
- The Sharon Herald, published near where he was born 85 years ago, in Hickory Township, Pennsylvania
- The San Francisco Chronicle, published where he lived for over 50 years.
Even though we mostly communicate electronically here in the Silicon Valley, it was important to my mother to see his obituary published in the paper. Publishing an obituary is very expensive. Newspapers seem to consider grieving families fair game and charge as much as they can. This pair cost $132 and $450 respectively for a one-time publication. Even so, the Chronicle had to republish because they misprinted his name the first time. The Herald version is longer because it cost less – the same text in the Chronicle would have cost over $1,000. The San Francisco text reads:
Ben Wade Oakes Dickinson died at the age of 85 in November 2011 at his home in San Francisco. Wade was born in 1926 in Hickory Township PA, to Ben Wade Orr Dickinson, Jr., and Gladys Grace Oakes Dickinson. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, his brother and business partner of 50 years Wayne, his 3 children: Mark, Katy, and Peter, and 6 grandchildren: Jessica and Paul, Corey and Forrest, Lynda and Daniel. Wade was a West Point graduate, and Technical Advisor on Atomic Energy to the US Congress. He taught Engineering entrepreneurship for 19 years at UC Berkeley, and was a lay leader at St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church. Wade’s first patent was granted in 1965 and his 39th in 2011. His funeral was on 4 December 2011, in San Francisco.
Rest in peace.
* One of the reasons it took so long to place these obits is because the family had to prove to each paper that Wade Dickinson is dead. Jessica just placed her grandfather’s third obituary with the Knoxville News Sentinel, the paper in my mother’s home town (where my parents met at a dance in 1951). The Knoxville News Sentinel required a copy of his certificate of death, plus a call to the mortuary, plus a call to the widow before accepting the obit placement. I understand that someone might try to place an obit as a joke and that fact checking is important but some sensitivity toward the mourning family is also appropriate.
Thanks again to Jessica for all of her patience and work placing the obituaries in the SF Chronicle, Sharon Herald, and Knoxville News Sentinel. My uncle just called to say that a friend of my grandfather called him after seeing Wade’s obit. My mother has been happy to get many letters of condolence from friends who saw the Chronicle last week. Newspapers are still important, even in our social media world!