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This Election Year, More Families Inject Political Endorsements Into Obits

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This Election Year, More Families Inject Political Endorsements Into Obits

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This Election Year, More Families Inject Political Endorsements Into Obits

This Election Year, More Families Inject Political Endorsements Into Obits

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/484473942/484473943" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon talks with Katie Falzone of Legacy.com about the phenomenon of online obituaries turning much more political with the deceased now plugging a candidate from the grave.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

When Elaine Fydrych in New Jersey passed way at the age of 63, her obituary included the request, quote, "in lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton." And this from the obit of Joseph Vogt of Virginia - when he died at the age of 64, quote, "Joe also loved the Republican Party. God bless him, as this will thankfully be one less vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election."

Seems that this year, more Americans are making their electoral preferences known from the hereafter. Katie Falzone is vice president for operations at Legacy.com. They host obituaries for newspapers and funeral homes. She joins us now from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago, where, of course, deceased Americans can always vote. Thanks very much for being with us, Ms. Falzone.

KATIE FALZONE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: So has this really stepped up this election year.

FALZONE: It definitely has. I recently pulled some numbers from our site and found, you know, over the course of the past few election cycles, we've seen a huge increase. So the first year I looked at was comparing June to June numbers for the 2003-2004. We only had five references to political candidates in obituaries. This year, 119.

SIMON: Oh, my.

FALZONE: Yes.

SIMON: Now, we cited a couple of examples at the beginning. I wonder if you could share some of your favorites with us. And, you know, this is journalism, so please make an attempt to be even-handed.

FALZONE: (Laughter) Absolutely. One that was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch for Mary Ann Noland - faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Ann Noland of Richmond chose instead to pass into the eternal love of God.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: That's a good one. Any others we should know about?

FALZONE: Yeah. Another example - Clinton Redding - his obituary was published by the Neptune Society. Clint was a professional machine mechanic, and if something was broken, he could fix it. He'd be glad to know that any and everyone who reads this would cast their vote to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. That was the last thing he wanted to fix.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Are people including more personal information in their obituaries now? Are families doing that?

FALZONE: They absolutely are. It's a trend we've seen. You know, I've been with Legacy for 14 years. And when I first started at Legacy, many of the obituaries were very stoic, very fact-focused. What we're seeing now is that obituaries are really more personal.

We're seeing people talk more about hobbies, about what they love. We're also seeing them be more personal in how they talk about the cause of death - things like suicide, mental health struggles, drug addiction. Things that a generation ago just weren't polite to talk about - families are much more willing to make that public now.

SIMON: Yeah. What do you make of that?

FALZONE: You know, my sense is that a lot of that is that social media has enabled us to really get comfortable with sharing personal details about our lives that we may not have told anybody before. And, you know, I think part of it is families just removing a lot of the stigma around some of these categories. So things like mental health struggles and drug addiction and abuse - those things are - as the generations have passed, families are realizing that this isn't anything to be ashamed of.

And I think that's really been a positive change for these families to just sort of step into that and own it and say it's OK to talk about this. And you know we've seen examples where families have been very direct about the struggles their family member may have had. And they've included phrases like, you know, we're publishing this because we want to make this better for other families.

SIMON: Katie Falzone is vice president for operations at Legacy.com. Thanks so much.

FALZONE: You're welcome. Thank you.

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