Modern Obituaries with Susan Soper
posted on 11/8/11 by Susan Soper
MWL thanks guest blogger Susan Soper, founder and author of ObitKit®, for writing this week's blog on modern obituaries. About a year ago, Susan wrote a blog detailing what her mother's obituary would have said had it been written today. She updated this post for us, and added some thoughts on the celebration she thought her mother would have had if she passed away in 2011.
Last July 25, my mother would have turned 88. I can’t even imagine what she would have been like at that age – almost twice what she was when she died at age 45. Before cancer took over her life at age 40, she was active – a good tennis player and walker – and engaged in giving back to the community. Until the very end, she was a devoted mother, a dedicated employee and hard worker. In another era, there’s no telling what kind of heights she might have achieved in this post-feminist environment.
Since her death in 1968, there have been countless culture changes and many upheavals – global and personal. The worst was my losing a mother at a young age.
In recent years, as I have become engaged in what I call “the business of obituaries” my quest to know more about what makes people tick – even when they are no longer ticking. That has prompted me to think about how her obituary would read if she died today.
When she died, obituaries were fairly cut and dried. They listed military service, career highs, awards, civic duties and survivors. There wasn’t much discussion about personality, hobbies or accomplishments outside the business world.
Today, her obituary would be a different, far more complete, picture.
This is the obituary that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution and in The New York Times in 1968:
Suzanne “Hebe” Moeller Soper, 45, died at home September 29.
She was born in New York, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard
H. Moeller of Casey Key, Fla. She attended Wheaton College
before marrying George M. Soper. She was the secretary to the
headmaster of The Westminster Schools. She leaves three children,
Susan McLeod, Wendy Jean and George M. Jr. Burial will be in
Here’s how she might be remembered if we were writing her obit in 2011:
Once diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, Suzanne “Hebe” Soper never gave up. She never complained, maintaining a brave and cheerful outlook of an optimistic future – even through countless radiation and chemotherapy treatments, broken bones, X-rays, hospitalizations and pain. She continued to raise her three children and be involved in their lives, through their daily needs and dramas, as they closed in on adulthood.
She died at home on Sept. 29.
Suzannne, known to her friends and family as Hebe, was born July 25, 1923, and grew up in Larchmont, N.Y. where she attended Ursulin, before going to Wheaton College in Massachusetts. During the summer after her freshman year, she visited her roommate’s family in Old Saybrook, Conn. where she met George McLeod “Cloudy” Soper. It was not long before the two were married, in January 1944. They lived in Boston and Rumson, N.J. before moving their young family to Atlanta in 1954.
Filled with compassion and interest in others, Hebe made friends easily and maintained contact with many. She was an active volunteer, most notably for the Florence Crittenden Home, driving young pregnant teens to their doctors’ appointments. As her children grew, she began working outside the home – for Casual Corner and then for The Westminster Schools, as secretary to the headmaster of the Boys’ School, Dr. Don Gabelein. She was beloved by the students who dedicated their 1966 yearbook to her. She instilled a feeling in the students reflected in her quote “And the joy love brings is the reason for being…”
Before her illness, Hebe was a capable tennis player and energetic walker. She loved being outdoors, working in the yard and raking leaves into piles for the children to jump in. She also loved a good bourbon and water and a roaring fire.
Hebe was an avid reader – of the newspaper, of biographies, mysteries and even books about baseball heroes. As she was confined to bed, she loved watching sports on TV, was dismayed and saddened by televised reports of the Vietnam War – particularly as friends of her children were deployed – and continued to correspond with friends and family in her beautiful and distinctive handwriting. She was clever in her own writing, especially in creating rhymes, and was an enormous help with the school challenges the children faced in homework assignments, papers and projects. She was also good with numbers and games – from the word game Jumble to Canasta, Russian Bank and crosswords.
Hebe is survived by her husband, Cloudy, and her three children: Susie, Wendy and Mike. Her parents, Dorothea and Richard H. Moeller, of Casey Key, Fla. also survive her, as does her brother Richard Moeller of Bangor, Maine, and several fond nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations made to any wildlife or nature preservation society would be an appropriate and appreciated way to celebrate her love of the out of doors.
Hebe’s life will be celebrated in a small family service at St. Martin’s in the Field with a burial in Old Saybrook, Conn.
In contrast to the tiny – family only, really – service that was held in a small suburban Atlanta Episcopal church and the extended family in attendance at the Connecticut burial, I can envision a much livelier celebration of her life if she died in 2011.
There would be blown-up photos of her beautiful self – dressed up to go out, soaking in the surf on the beach, working at her desk or in the kitchen or sitting pool-side with friends. In keeping with her literary interests and appetites, there would be poignant readings and eulogies from her wide array of friends, young and old, rich and poor, educated and not.
Her tastes were simple and uncomplicated but she had a flair for dressing, decorating and entertaining. She loved her bourbon – which would certainly flow freely at a service held today – and for the jellied candies popular then called Chuckles. A pack of those would certainly be the perfect “parting gift” for all in attendance – a sweet reminder of their friend who had moved on. One of the things my siblings and I do on her birthday each year is treat ourselves to a Maine lobster – something she relished and appreciated until the end.
To read some of Suzanne Moeller Soper’s thoughts in the year before she died, visit http://connect.legacy.com/profiles/blogs/writing-while-dying-words-of.
MWL asked Susan Soper to provide photos for her mother's original obituary, as well as a photo for the 2011, more modern version. Here is what she gave us, and her mother was certainly a beautiful lady!
Susan Soper is the founder and author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life (www.obitkit.com). In connection with the ObitKit workbook, she is leading workshops and speaking on obituary-related topics. A lifelong journalist, she is also helping people tell their life stories – in books and obituaries – and working as a freelance editor and writer in Atlanta.
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