Obituaries that tell the truth (2)

Charles 3 Comments



John F Harvey, October 1890


“Of John F. Harvey who died of heart failure at the Massachusetts General Hospital, it can truly be said, his was a wasted life. His epitaph should be “unwept, un-honored and unsung.” He had a  roving disposition and longing for adventure, and it is no wonder that he became a pirate and a slaver, and finally a burglar and common thief…As a member of the 59th Mass Regiment, he was specially commended for valor and daring, yet he spoiled it all by deserting just before the army was mustered out. Having a fair education and being well read, he applied himself to the study of ways and means of getting a living without work. And it must be allowed that he succeeded admirably, but at the expense of reputation and everything else that people hold dear. His remains were placed in the family lot in Vine Lake Cemetery, Medfield and, by his own request, his relatives were not notified and no service was held. We do not think that the last part of this request should have been complied with. It was heathenish. One of our pastors should have been asked to read the Scripture and offer prayer.”



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james showers
11 years ago

It’s one thing to write honestly of a life on a tombstone, it’s quite another to judge it by a snarky religious/cultural standard of correctness.
For this reason, this po-faced epitaph deeply dishonours what was clearly a life of some considerable struggle, courage and character.
Give the guy a break.

Charles Cowling
11 years ago

No judgementalism intended, James, wry detachment only.

Okay, provocation, too.

gloria mundi
11 years ago

Maybe the best obits and tributes are not judgemental but descriptive?

But wha’evah, you must admit James that it’s quite wittily-written…