How to write an edited obituaryMay 19,2013
Times Argus Obituary Policy
The Times Argus prints obituaries as a public service to its readers. The newspaper considers obituaries to be news and has established a set of guidelines on the information that may be included. (For our policy on fully paid obituaries, please scroll to the bottom of this article)
Edited ($15) Notices
Obituaries preferably come from funeral homes; if they are faxed, the fax number and name of the funeral home should appear on the copy or funeral home letterhead may be used. Obits received from relatives must be verified with a copy of an obit printed in another newspaper, a copy of a death certificate or some other satisfactory verification. (We have, on occasion, received fictitious obits.)
The daily deadline for obituaries is 2 p.m. If the deadline is earlier on holidays, a notice will be printed on the obituary page several days prior to the holiday.
As a rule, a full obituary is printed once. If there are additional survivors, changes or more information, an abbreviated version may be published. If there is no new information, obituaries are not repeated. Generally speaking, if the newspaper makes an error, we will repeat the obituary on the following day.
Because most of our readers are Vermonters, a local connection must be made. Thus, if the deceased was a current resident of Sarasota, Fla., a Vermont dateline is desirable. We prefer to highlight Vermont activities and memberships.
Below is more information on what is included in an edited obituary.
1. Name, Age, Place of Residence and Cause of Death
“BARRE - Margaret R. “Peg” Smith, 69, died Dec. 5, 2004, at the Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin, after a long illness.”
The deceased's full name is published with middle initial and maiden name, if applicable. Nicknames will be placed in quotes after the middle initial.
The newspaper lists the town the deceased is from as the dateline and will list a nursing home if desired.
Listing the length, type of illness or cause of death is up to the family.
Courtesy titles are used in the second reference to the deceased. If no preference is given on a courtesy title for a woman, the newspaper will use “Mrs.” if the deceased was married, and “Miss” if she was not.
2. Birth, Education
“She was born Feb. 26, 1935, in Waterbury, the daughter of Joseph and Carolyn Smith.
She graduated from Montpelier High School in 1953 and Saint Michael's College in 1957.”
“He earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Vermont in 1945 and a master's degree in English from Harvard University in 1949.”
Degrees may also be listed.
Elementary and middle schools are only listed if the deceased is under the age of 18.
“She married John Smith in Waitsfield on June 3, 1955.”
If a marriage ends in divorce or death, and the deceased has remarried, that can be included as follows: “She married John Smith in Waitsfield on June 3, 1955. He died in 1975. She married Jack Jones on July 17, 1983.”
4. Employment/Organizations/Military Service
“Mr. Smith served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He was an editor at the Times Argus for 26 years.
He was a past president of the New England Newspaper Association and a member of the Moose Club.”
Prior short-term employment may be included, but dates are not.
“Mr. Smith was a clerk at Price Chopper before starting his own construction business. He also operated a day-care center.”
All organizations will be listed but dates will not be. Leadership positions will also be noted.
Volunteer experiences will be listed.
5. Hobbies/Church Affiliation
“She enjoyed baking cookies and sailing.”
Hobbies and activities like gardening, hunting, bowling, stamp collecting, etc., may be included.
The Times Argus will also include unique items like: “Mrs. Jones baked apple pies for the local harvest supper for 25 years.”
However, the newspaper avoids general comments that apply to all human beings, like an appreciation for morning, evening, the sun, children, grandchildren, animals, etc.
“She was a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church for 28 years.”
Church membership may also be included.
“Survivors include his wife, Ruth (Smith) Jones of Barre; three sons, James Jones and William Jones, both of Montpelier, and Kevin Jones of Burlington; two sisters, Betty Dakes of Burlington and Marion Hall of Barre; two grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.”
Names of spouses, parents, siblings and children are listed. A companion or close friend may be included if a domestic partner, a fiancée or a close caregiver. Please let us know if special wording of the domestic partner is requested.
Former spouses are listed if the family desires.
If a parent is surviving and not remarried, the words mother and father will be used in the second reference.
Sons, daughter, brothers or sisters are grouped together. All the sons or all the daughters who live in the same towns are also grouped.
Generally, middle names or maiden names are not used when listing survivors, unless the person is known by both, such as Bobbi Jo or Parker-Smith.
The names of grandchildren, nieces, nephews or cousins are not listed, unless they are the closest living survivors. In-laws are not included in the list of survivors, but stepparents or domestic partners of a parent are included.
Pets are not included.
“He was predeceased by his wife, Ruth (Smith) Jones in 1998; three sons, James Jones, Williams Jones and Kevin Jones; and a cousin.”
In general, the rules of survivors apply to whose name will be listed here. For example, a deceased sister's name will be listed but a granddaughter's name will not.
If the deceased is under the age of 65, parents' names may be listed as predeceased. After 65, it is presumed the parents are deceased and it is not necessary to list them.
8. Calling Hours/Funerals/Funeral Homes/Contributions
“Friends may call from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, at [the x funeral home] on [x Street] in [x town].
The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the funeral home.
Burial will follow Wednesday in Evergreen Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1460, Williston, VT 05495.”
The full name of the funeral home is used in the first reference. Second and third references are “the funeral home.”
The address of the funeral home is listed only if there are calling hours or the funeral home is handling memorial contributions.
If two funeral homes are involved, the obituary will note who is in charge of local arrangements and out-of-town arrangements.
If the funeral home has not been mentioned earlier in the obituary, it is included at the conclusion of the notice. If it already has been mentioned, it is not listed again.
If there are no calling hours or services are private, the obituary should indicate that. “There will be no calling hours. Services are private.”
“Interment” can only be used when the deceased is placed in a vault in the winter.
If burial cannot be held at the time of service because of frozen ground, the newspaper prefers, “Burial will be at a later date,” as opposed to “in the spring.”
Contributions to a specific organization or to a favorite charity will be listed.
If requested, a good quality picture of the deceased may be published. Pictures will be held for pickup after the notice appears in the newspaper or we will return pictures by mail if requested.
“The funeral service for John J. Smith, 69, who died Nov. 23, 2005, was held Saturday, Nov. 26, at [the x funeral home].
The Rev. Susan Smith, pastor of United Church of Christ, officiated.
Burial followed in Evergreen Cemetery.
Organist was James Smith.
The eulogy was offered by a niece, Sara Gleason.
The American Legion Post 31 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Montpelier provided military honors.
Bearers were James Smith, John Jones, Matthew Rinehart, Scott Same, Harold Running and Timothy Carlton.
Lt. Ron Black presented the flag to Mr. Smith's wife, Joanne.
Taps were sounded by Maurice Rancourt.”
The rites are to let the public know that a funeral was held. They are not a second obituary where all the information about the deceased is reprinted. Memorial contributions may be listed with the rites.
The header of the rites will say the deceased's full name followed by the word, “Rites.”
Eulogists are included in the rites; however, offertory gifts are not.
Concelebrants will be listed. Eucharistic ministers and acolytes will not be listed.
Organizations that hold a service will be included but the names of individual members are not listed. Bowling teams and the like are exceptions and are not included in the obituary.
For military services, all organizations that attended and provided honors are listed. Individual names are not listed. Names of color guard and firing squads are not listed. However, if a flag was presented, both the person to whom it was presented and the person who did the presenting are named.
The names of all bearers are published. Only the names of up to eight honorary bearers are published because of space considerations.
11. Notice of Death/Graveside Service
“Jane Smith, 89, died Nov. 30, 2004, in Montpelier.
A full obituary will be published in a future edition of the Times Argus.
Arrangements are under the direction of [the x funeral home].”
These short notices will be printed if a complete obituary cannot be obtained by deadline and a notice of the death is wished immediately.
The graveside service for Jane Smith, 89, who died Dec. 28, 2005, will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 4, 2006, in Evergreen Cemetery in Montpelier.
Arrangements are under the direction of [the x funeral home].”
Brief announcement of services will be included if the service occurs a substantial time after the original obituary was printed.
Because some families prefer their own wording and may desire to include more information in the obituary, the Times Argus offers paid notices. The deadlines for paid notices are the same as they are for free notices. Funeral homes will be billed at the rate of $8.90 per column inch for publication in the daily Times Argus, and $9.90 per column inch in the Sunday Times Argus.
There is also a $15 online fee applied to both the free and paid notices.
Aside from applying normal journalistic standards of style and grammar, paid notices will be published as submitted. Vermont funeral homes will be automatically billed for paid notices. Notices from out-of-state funeral homes must be accompanied by a signed “Agreement” form or a credit card number. Private party paid notices must be paid in advance or by credit card.MORE IN Obituary Policy
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