Obituaries are often seen as a solemn and somber reflection of someone’s life, a final goodbye to a loved one, a friend, or a public figure.
But some obituaries go beyond the typical formula of listing achievements and recounting personal details. Instead, they offer a glimpse into a person’s unique character, quirks, and humor.
In this article, I will set out 12 of the best obituaries ever written, ranging from the humorous to the poignant.
A few are for famous people, while a few are for the “average joe”. Regardless, all of them stand out as some of the best tributes ever put to paper over the years.
Related Article: How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person [Full Guide]
In This Article
12 Best Obituaries Ever Written
1. Richard William’s Obituary for Lou Reed
Richard William’s Eulogy for American musician Lou Reed, published in The Guardian newspaper, is a fitting tribute to the man who made alienation the dominant mode of rock’n’roll.
William praised Reed for his fearlessness in jolting his audience with noise elements borrowed from the avant-garde, and recognized Reed’s profound ambition to use rock’s immediacy as a vehicle for a literary approach.
Overall, William’s obituary is a well-written tribute to an influential artist who shaped the direction of pop music.
Our Favorite Quote From Richard William’s Obituary for Lou Reed
Before the arrival of Lou Reed, it could be said that rock’n’roll remained a part of the entertainment industry, still in the business of ingratiating itself with its target audience even as it tried equally hard to alienate their parents. Reed, who has died aged 71, made alienation the dominant mode and an article of faith for subsequent generations.
2. Obituary for William “Freddie” McCullough
Another one of the best obituaries I’ve read is this one for William “Freddie” McCullough. It is a heartwarming and humorous farewell to a man who clearly lived life to the fullest.
One thing that sets this obituary apart is its light-hearted approach, which effectively captures Freddie’s spirit and personality. The use of colorful language and playful anecdotes paints a vivid picture of a man who loved food, women, and living life on his own terms.
The obituary cleverly juxtaposes Freddie’s love of “deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup” with his disdain for vegetables and hypocrites, showcasing his unapologetic nature.
Overall, it strikes a perfect balance between reverence and humor, and manages to capture the essence of Freddie’s personality in a very concise manner.
Our Favorite Quote From William “Freddie” McCullough’s Obituary
The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order.
3. The New York Times’ Obituary for Chadwick Boseman
The New York Times’ obituary for Chadwick Boseman, who tragically died from cancer at the age of 43, is a heartfelt memorial for the actor who brought iconic Black characters to life in cinema.
The authors, Reggie Ugwu and Michael Levenson, note Boseman’s quiet nature in Hollywood and his late arrival to stardom, which he made up for with a string of powerful performances, culminating in his lead role in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist and a majority Black cast.
Overall, the obituary captures Boseman’s impact and legacy. Reading it gives me the same profound sense of loss I had when I first heard the news of his death in 2020.
Our Favorite Quote From The New York Times’ Obituary for Chadwick Boseman
When the opportunity came to bring the character — and his fictional African homeland, Wakanda — to the big screen, Mr. Boseman embraced the role’s symbolic significance to Black audiences with a statesman’s pride and devotion. He lobbied for the characters to speak in authentic South African accents, and led on-set cast discussions about ancient African symbolism and spirituality.
4. Obituary for Mary A. “Pink” Mullaney
Mary A. “Pink” Mullaney’s obituary is a beautiful piece of writing for someone who was clearly a remarkable woman.
I appreciate the unique and personal touches throughout, sharing the lessons Pink taught her family with the world, such as advice about old pantyhose, possums, and picky eaters.
The obituary captures Pink’s generous and compassionate spirit, emphasizing her love for others and her dedication to making a positive impact in the world.
Our Favorite Quote From Mary A. “Pink” Mullaney’s Obituary
We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments. Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn’t leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay.
5. John Wilford’s Obituary for Neil Armstrong
John Wilford’s New York Times obituary for Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, is another one of the best.
Wilford captures Armstrong’s private nature and his dedication to engineering and piloting, two traits that made him stand out while training to be an astronaut.
The author describes in detail the historic moment when Armstrong, with his co-pilot, Buzz Aldrin, steered their lunar landing craft to the surface of the moon, making it possible for them to take that “giant leap for mankind.”
Our Favorite Quote From John Wilford’s Obituary for Neil Armstrong
About six and a half hours after the landing, Mr. Armstrong opened the hatch of the four-legged lunar module and slowly made his way down the ladder to the lunar surface. A television camera followed his every step for all the world to see. A crater near the landing site is named in Mr. Armstrong’s honor.
Mr. Armstrong and Colonel Aldrin left a plaque on the Moon that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
6. Frederick Sydney Hoffman’s Obituary For Himself
Frederick Sydney Hoffman’s obituary, written by himself before he passed, is a candid and humorous one.
Hoffman’s personality and humor shine through the text, making it a joy to read. He makes very witty remarks and makes playful jabs at those he clearly loved (and those he didn’t).
His gratitude towards those who cared for him, including his family, friends, and doctors, is heartfelt and shows how much he appreciated the people around him in his final days.
Taken as a whole, the obituary is a reminder to celebrate life, and not just mourn loss.
Our Favorite Quote From Frederick Sydney Hoffman’s Obituary For Himself
After 53 years of coming in last I finally beat my siblings at something, I died first. I knew this would happen one day but it sucks, I really wanted to hang out a bit more but, once again, I didn’t get things my way.
7. The BBC’s Obituary for Robin Williams
The Robin Williams obituary published by the BBC is a well-written goodbye for the American actor and comedian who tragically took his own life in 2014.
The obituary summarizes Williams’ career, highlighting his skills for writing humorous characters like Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin’s genie while also highlighting his ability to portray villains like those in Insomnia and One Hour Picture.
Overall, the depth of Williams’ career and his influence on popular culture are well captured in this obituary.
Our Favorite Quote From The BBC’s Obituary for Robin Williams
Robin Williams, the US actor and comedian who has been found dead in an apparent suicide at the age of 63, won legions of fans with his frenetic energy, quick-fire improvisations and ability to mimic other famous people.
Those skills enabled him to create such delightful comic characters as Mrs Doubtfire, the faux Scottish nanny he disguised himself as in the 1993 hit, and the shape-shifting genie in Disney’s Aladdin – a free-wheeling force no bottle could contain.
8. Obituary for Garrett Michael Matthias
Garrett Michael Matthias’s obituary is a heart-warming tribute for a five-year-old boy who lost his battle to cancer. While heartbreaking, it captures Garrett’s playful spirit, humor, and unique personality.
Garrett’s favorite things and people are listed in detail, from his love of Batman and Legos to his affection for his family members, friends, and medical staff. His wishes for a gorilla burial and a tree made from his ashes are imaginative and touching, while his request for a bouncy house and snow cones at his funeral shows his fun-loving nature.
The obituary ends with a tribute to the medical professionals and volunteers who cared for Garrett and a vow to continue fighting for a cure for pediatric cancer.
Our Favorite Quote From Garrett Michael Matthias’s Obituary
Garrett endured nine months of hell before he lost his battle with cancer. During that time he never lost his sense of humor and loved to tease the doctors and nurses. From whoopy cushions and sneaking clothes pins on their clothes to ‘hazing’ the interns and new staff doctors, he was forever a prankster. Nothing caught people off guard as his response to ‘see ya later alligator’:
See ya later, suckas! – The Great Garrett Underpants
9. The Economist’s Obituary for Pope John Paul II
The Economist’s obituary for Pope John Paul II honors his life and papacy, detailing his tireless work as the head of the Catholic Church.
The authors honors the Pope’s unwavering faith and his determination to spread the message of the church, regardless of his physical limitations. Despite being a polarizing figure, the Pope’s devotion to promoting human rights and agitating for freedom for oppressed people is laudable.
The writer also commends the Pope’s unexpected acts of unity and his reading out of an apology for the church’s bad behavior over the centuries.
Our Favorite Quote From The Economist’s Obituary for Pope John Paul II
The most frequent surprise, however, was the strength of spirit—of soul, he would say—that kept him going. He carried on largely in order to display, to a cynical world, the power of God at work in him and the needlessness of the fear of death. Now that he has been called back to source, his bruised and worried church feels, more than anything, the lack of his confidence.
10. Obituary for Renay Mandel Corren
Another one of my favorite obituaries is this one for Renay Mandel Corren by her son. It paints a vivid picture of her life that excels at showcasing her peculiarities while also honoring her as a mother and grandma.
This obituary’s honesty and genuineness are what I value most about it. It embraces Renay in all her beauty rather than downplaying her flaws and defects.
Our Favorite Quote From Renay Mandel Corren’s Obituary
A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday. Of itself hardly news, or good news if you’re the type that subscribes to the notion that anybody not named you dying in El Paso, Texas is good news. In which case have I got news for you: the bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch of a sprawling Jewish-Mexican-Redneck American family has kicked it. This was not good news to Renay Mandel Corren’s many surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom she even knew and, in her own way, loved.
11. The New York Times’ Obituary for John F. Kennedy, Jr.
The obituary for John F. Kennedy Jr. published by The New York Times is a well-written piece that reflects his life as part of a political dynasty and focuses on the different sides of him: The JFK Jr. public figure and the JFK Jr. private individual.
The use of details such as his birth and mother’s comments about him help to humanize him while the inclusion of his guiding scripture passage and his contributions to society show his philanthropic side.
Overall, the obituary is a fitting tribute to a man who lived his life in the shadow of his family’s larger-than-life legacy.
Our Favorite Quote From The New York Times’ Obituary for John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Mr. Kennedy, 38, has been missing since Friday night after the plane he was flying to a cousin’s wedding on Cape Cod failed to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard. His disappearance in the prime of his life, like the deaths of his father, two uncles, an aunt and two cousins before him, only added to the perception that his larger-than-life family has been besieged by a near-biblical blight.
12. Obituary for Terry Wayne Ward
Terry Wayne Ward’s obituary, written by his daughter, is one of the most amusing, heartfelt, and best obituaries I have read.
The obituary starts with an unusual introduction, stating that Terry left behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip and 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper, which is unexpected but sets the tone for for what’s to come.
Overall, it paints a wonderful picture of Terry’s personality and includes specific details about his life such as his service in the United States Army and his 39-year career at AT&T. The inclusion of his favorite things, like ABBA, starlight mints, and old Buicks, adds a personal touch to the obituary.
It’s clear that he was a beloved family member and a person with a big personality and even bigger heart.
Our Favorite Quote From Terry Wayne Ward’s Obituary
Terry graduated from Thornridge High School in South Holland, IL, where only three of his teachers took an early retirement after having had him as a student. He met the love of his life, Kathy, by telling her he was a lineman – he didn’t specify early on that he was a lineman for the phone company, not the NFL. Still, Kathy and Terry wed in the fall of 1969, perfectly between the Summer of Love and the Winter of Regret.