Why we publish obituaries for free

Obituaries are a community record that is every bit as important as minutes of public meetings, a trove for historians and genealogists alike.

My mom was amazing. Although she was valedictorian of her class at Wheeling High School, my grandfather refused to pay for her college education on the grounds that she’d get married and never use her degree. She scrounged enough scholarships to foot the bills instead. And while she did get married, she did use her degree—working as a substitute teacher while my sisters and I were little, teaching eighth-grade English, and teaching composition at Belmont Technical College.

As service unit director for the Girl Scouts, Mom led troops, ran an annual summer day camp and organized participation in parades and other civic activities. (In 1976, we painted all the town’s fire hydrants red, white and blue for the Bicentennial.) In retirement, she wrote the definitive collector’s guide to Harker pottery, where my paternal grandparents worked until the plant closed in 1972.

Her life deserved to be commemorated publicly. But when she died in October 2019, my hometown newspaper wanted almost $1,000 for her obituary. Instead, she got a simple death notice.

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Obituaries are not only a way for the bereaved to pay homage to their loved one; they’re also part of a community’s history. They form a record that is every bit as important as minutes of public meetings, a trove for historians and genealogists alike.

When we started the Independent, I vowed to publish obituaries for free. We started fulfilling that vow this month, and in this issue of The Indy you’ll find moving testimonials to two other remarkable women.

I think—I hope—my mom would be proud.

January 18, 2023

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