AT RANDOM: And when I die…

Obituary about Harry Stamps has columnist Roger Knox captivated

As a reporter, one of the first things that gets drilled into you is the importance of your opening line in a story.

It’s the line that hooks and attracts the readers, and makes them want to read the rest of the story.

Well that same rule can apply to obituaries (hey, somebody’s gotta write them).

And the first line of 80-year-old Harry Weathersby Stamps’ online obit from the Long Beach (Miss.) Sun Herald made me not only read the rest of his fascinating story, but left me wishing I had met Mr. Stamps in person:

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

What I learned about Mr. Stamps from his incredibly hilarious obituary was this: he hated cilantro and arugula; claimed to have remembered EVERY meal he ate in his 80 years; that the women in his life were numerous; he married his “main squeeze,” with whom they had two daughters. He taught his girls to “fish and to pick a quality hammer, to love nature and to just be thankful.”

Stamps had a lifetime love of boiled peanuts, deviled eggs and “outsmarting squirrels.” He was also a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College.

A Korean war veteran, Stamps “took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house, Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU (I’m guessing Mississippi State University) baseball cap.”

His extensive travel was at the finest campgrounds where he always spent extra money to make sure he had a creek view for his tent, and, later in life, Stamps bought a used pop-up camper for his family to “travel in style.”

Finally, and what made me bust a gut laughing was, “because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family-only service free of any type of theme.”

“Paint a picture for the reader” is another lesson we reporters are taught.

Well if that obituary doesn’t paint a remarkable portrait of Harry Weathersby Stamps, nothing will.

The obituary was apparently written by one of Stamps’ daughters and, hysterical as it is, you can also feel the love coming through for Mr. Stamps. He was a character, he lived a good life and he was beloved. To me, it’s how an obituary should read and I hope mine will read likewise when the time comes.

The pain, heartache and sorrow that comes with death can be alleviated with an infusion of humour and laughter. I didn’t know this man and I had tears of laughter streaming down my face, not tears of sadness.

So far, my life has been pretty good. I’d like to think I’ve left my mark on people and did so as a good friend, great father and someone who liked to have a good time.

I still haven’t decided yet if I want any kind of service (let alone one with a theme), and I have joked in the past that I would write my own eulogy so that way I could get what I wanted said about me at my own service rather than leaving the task to a friend or family member.

Not only does Stamps’ obituary leave me wishing I’d known him, it made me think about my 49 years on earth and that I’ve got a lot of things I still want to accomplish before I leave this world which, hopefully, is 30 years or more away.


Like being a better dresser.