In page after page newspapers are filled with stories of violence, killings and wars. If news doesn’t involve those deadly subjects it contains stories of drug busts, kidnappings and families losing homes. I never feel particularly informed, but always feel depressed after reading the papers’ version of “news.”
After too many bad experiences with stories and news reports I discovered that the most interesting articles in the paper are on the obituary pages. Does that sound depressing and strange? I thought so too, until I realized the scope of articles written in that section. This is where interesting people having great accomplishments are described. Lives worth living; lives offering something to the public. Or lives spent in strange unusual ways.
Just yesterday , Sunday, December 30, 2012, the Obituary pages of the New York Times told these stories of the departed and their stories:
In the world of sports Art Larsen, a tennis champion who won the U.S. Title at Wimbledon in 1950, died at the age of 87. As much as he was known for his excellence on the court he was known for his tics and personality quirks. During tennis matches, during side changes he had to step on some lines and not on others. He sometimes addressed an imaginary bird on his shoulder , and he was widely known as “Tappy” because of his need to tap people on the shoulder a given number of times on given days. Larsen was also a drinker, smoker and party lover, but didn’t like training. Still, he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
The science arena lost Dr. Elwood V. Jensen, age 92, a pioneer in breast cancer care. Dr. Jensen was a medical researcher who studied steroid hormones which led to new treatments for cancer that led to saving hundreds of thousands of lives. He used radioactive tracers to show that steroid hormones affect cells by binding to a specific receptor protein inside them. Breast cancers that are estrogen positive can be treated with medications like Tamoxifen. Women with receptive rich breast cancers often go into remission when estrogen is blocked or removed. Dr. Jensen developed a test for the presence of estrogen receptors. His work also led to the development of drugs that can inhibit or enhance the effects of hormones, and are used to treat prostate and other cancers.
The most surprising and seemingly inappropriate story to appear in the NY Times Obituary pages was of a man named Frank Calabrese. Mr. Calabrese , 75, was a loan shark and hit man for the mob in Chicago. His obituary said that he was an especially vicious member of the Chicago organized crime family known as The Outfit and was serving a life sentence. At his trial, the judge commented that he had never seen a case in which both brother and son testified against a defendant.
The stories in the obituary pages are where history lessons are found, interesting lives are reported, great accomplishments are described.
Plus a few oddball, unexpected stories.