**The obituary that was published is quite lengthy and can be read in full here.
Writing a great obituary is very similar to writing a eulogy. In both cases, you want to convey who the deceased was a person, what made them unique, how they influenced others, and highlight their personal and professional accomplishments.
An excellent example of this is the New York Times obituary written for legendary sports writer and radio/television commentator Frank Deford by Daniel Victor. The following sections are excerpts from the obituary and serve as excellent examples of how to write an obituary.
"Mr. Deford retired from NPR’s “Morning Edition” on May 3, signing off with what the radio
network said was his 1,656th weekly commentary since 1980. He also appeared on HBO’s “Real
Sports With Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than 30
This first excerpt is from the beginning of the obituary. It outlines the lengthy career Frank Deford had as a journalist and sets the stage for what will be discussed throughout the obituary.
"Mr. Deford was a six-time Sportswriter of the Year, a National Magazine Award recipient, a
member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame and the first sportswriter
to be given a National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama in a White
House ceremony in 2013.
“A dedicated writer and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offered a consistent, compelling voice in print
and on radio, reaching beyond scores and statistics to reveal the humanity woven into the
games we love,” the award citation said."
This section is an excellent example of showcasing the professional accomplishments Frank Deford achieved during his career. Rather than just stating all of the awards he won, Victor includes a citation that was engraved on one of the awards. This is important because it adds value to what Victor is writing about Deford. It provides validation about the kind of person and journalist that Frank Deford was.
"In 1990, he was recruited to be the founding editor in chief of The National Sports Daily, also
known as The National, a short-lived tabloid newspaper that assembled a murderers’ row of
writers and editors, including John Feinstein and Mike Lupica. Some said they had been drawn
there by Mr. Deford’s presence."
This excerpt showcases the impact Frank Deford had on others, especially those within the sports realm of journalism. Part of writing a great obituary includes discussing the legacy and impact the deceased made on others. Victor does a good job of that by explaining how Deford influenced talented writers to work with him because of the reputation he had throughout the industry. These writers chose to go to a new startup company because Frank Deford was involved with it. That was enough to make them believe it would be a success.
"Besides his wife, Carol, whom he married in 1965, Mr. Deford is survived by his son, Christian;
another daughter, Scarlet Crawford; and two grandchildren."
An important part to include within an obituary is a reference to the deceased’s family. In this case, Mr. Deford had preceded his immediate family in death so it lists who he is survived by. If he had lost someone before him, the obituary would say proceeded in death by… and then list who he is survived by. Other relatives will not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the obituary may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren, or 7 great-grandchildren.