Category: obituary

Using the Obituary as a Weapon

Obituaries provide great information for genealogy. I’ve read hundreds of obituaries over the years while researching my family history. Recently, an obituary appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer and it went viral for its content. While it’s no longer accessible on the paper’s website, it’s been tweeted.

What makes this obituary unique is that it’s primary purpose isn’t to pay respects to the deceased, but to publicly embarrass/humiliate/shame one of her sons. I don’t know who wrote it, but my guess is an unhappy and spiteful daughter-in-law.

The obituary does not begin as a typical obit, but nothing wrong with being unique. A little dark, but a mere shadow of what’s to come.

Wilma Marie Voliva Black struggled into life over 94 years ago. Alone, Eva realized that her sixth child wasn’t crying and unwrapped the umbilical cord from her only daughter’s neck on December 11, 1921.

Wilma was bored by living on an Indiana farm with no cash during the depression, but she liked school. Her nomination to the National Honor Society at Bloomington High School was a source of pride all her life although she thought her nomination had probably been influenced by her six Voliva brothers’ athletic prowess and popularity. Her brother, Dick, had even represented the USA as a wrestler in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany.

The next paragraph makes it clear her marriage was not a bedrock of stability. Also note the “16 known grandchildren.” (We will learn that Wilma’s son David supposedly isn’t faithful to his wife, hence there could be oodles of unknown grandchildren populating the planet.)

Her co-star in a church play, Charles Black pressed Wilma into an elopement in May 1939. Wilma later learned that their marriage had been a cover for his sexual affair with their minister’s wife. Alcoholism and adultery continued throughout their marriage and ended in Wilma’s filing for divorce in 1969. Wilma is survived by the five children born to this union: Brenda (PA), Ronald (ID), Donald (CO), David (NC) and Debra (CO). She is also survived by 16 known grandchildren and their families.

Fortunately, some typical information in shared next:

As a military wife Wilma enjoyed moving frequently and lived in Germany, the Panama Canal Zone, California, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, N. Carolina, and Indiana. Wilma sewed most of her children’s clothing when they were young. She loved books and magazines and frequently could be found curled up reading.

Over the next two paragraphs, we find out the real purpose of this obituary: to show how horrible “the son” (aka David or Dave) is as a person, son, brother, care provider, and husband.

In 1999 her son moved her to NC and requested that she sign a durable power of attorney. Wilma lived independently with her son’s oversight until 2012 and then her son moved her into an assisted living facility in Knightdale. There he attributed her inability to care for herself to her lack of effort rather than the level of assistance and care she received. Family concern that she was being neglected was brushed aside. The location was convenient to his work and home. She told him, “This is not living, it’s existing.”

On Thanksgiving Day her son dropped her off in Knightdale, emailing his siblings that their mother looked about as poorly as he had seen her. A few hours later his mother was sent by ambulance to the emergency room with a temperature of 104 degrees. Her diagnoses were UTI, sepsis and light aspirate pneumonia. Wilma celebrated her 94th birthday with three of her children while hospitalized. Her anemia complicated her recovery and a medical error deprived her of her regular medications resulting in her agitation and fear. After her visiting children returned home, her son removed medical treatment. He later commented on the strength of her struggle for life. She died alone on Dec. 22 and was buried after Dave and his mistress returned from their Dec. 25 vacation trip to Oregon.

The wrap-up:

Wilma always said that her life seemed like a soap opera. Nearby stands the Indiana church where she had been baptized as a young and hopeful girl. Perhaps not so much a “soap” as a modern day tragedy.

Wilma Marie Voliva Black lived 94 years, and deserved an obituary which honored her and her life. Very disappointing she didn’t receive it.