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Skimming through the Obits and life
The obituary section of the old more informed newspaper era was an obsession with my father back in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the newspapers are anorexic but the Obit section is still growing strong. And, I understand why my father paid attention to it so much now that I am older
Des Plaines Valley, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers Dec. 22-16
By Ray Hanania
I don’t remember which paper it was, there were so many back then in Chicago.
I’d bring it in and he would divvy it up to everyone in the family.
The sports section went to my older brother. The entertainment and society sections went to my mom. My younger sister and I grabbed the comic strips.
Dad skimmed the news, ignored the editorials, read a few “Letters to the Editor,” but always lingered on the Obituary Section.
I always wondered why he spent so much time reading the obits, until the other day when I was watching the news and heard that Florence Henderson had died.
Carol Brady, who Henderson played on “The Brady Bunch,” was basically a surrogate mom for millions of kids across America, including for me. Her death stunned me.
The Obit Section doesn’t mean much to young people, but for those of us getting into the older years, it’s the barometer of our lives.
In the past few years, I have seen so many people I knew or identified with die. Not just celebrities, but friends, too.
A few weeks ago, Gary Miller, a longtime journalist at the Lawndale News passed away. Miller would visit or call every week going back years, talking about advertising, press releases and “the news.”
He looked so damn healthy, about my age, when he died of a heart attack. I went to his funeral. He just didn’t look the same. I knew only a few of the many family and friends who attended the wake. It reminded me how much more there is to other people’s lives.
It also reminded me why I am so fortunate to be a writer. I thank Reavis High school for that. We all have great stories to tell that should be documented and shared. But we don’t all write them down. We should. I’ll bet Miller saw a lot of great things during his lifetime.
Another friend I met back in 1978 during my first few weeks as a cub reporter at the old Southtown Economist Newspaper was Ed McElroy, who also passed, too, at 91.
The editor who hired me, H. Marlin Landwehr, introduced us. I remember the first time I shook McElroy’s hand at Landwehr’s desk in the newsroom.
“I’m Ed McElroy,” he barked with a firm handshake. Red-faced Irish, ebullient and always smiling, McElroy offered me tickets to see the White Sox. I thanked him and turned them down explaining I’m a Cubs fan.
I recall many Christmas parties at his Oak Lawn home and the wall of photos in his family room; I was so impressed as a City Hall reporter I also hung framed autographed pictures of mayors, congressmen and presidents I covered, too.
After his death, everyone claimed to know him and they all shared his stories. McElroy was that kind of guy.
So many people from my generation are knocking off faster than I can keep tabs. The newspaper’s today are not like the newspapers of my dad’s generation. They just can’t keep up either.
Another major influence in my life died recently. Astronaut John Glenn. Glenn helped us crawl out of our bomb shelters after the Soviets sent Sputnik into space. It scared the hell out of Americans. Glenn’s spaceship “Friendship 7” circled the Earth in 1962 and reminded us that as big as we think we are, we’re just a small spec of dust in a boundless universe that continues to grow.
Robert Vaughn, the Man from Uncle, died this year, and so did singer Bobby Vee, comedian Gene Wilder, actress Patty Duke, TV producer Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and so many more 70s hits), and Boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who I met while working as a bagger at Jewel at 87th and Stony Island in 1968. Ali’s bodyguard Salameh Hassan’s sister Saluka was a close friend of my family.
I wish I could list them all. They all meant so much to me and to so many others.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This post has already been read 1191 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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