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In Memory: Your thoughts about cause of death

Forums: Questions and Answers About Building Your Site
Created on: 09/20/11 03:10 AM Views: 1385 Replies: 22
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 3:10 AM

My thoughts on IN MEMORY is that it is not important to list how the classmate died. However, a visit to the Facebook group page is like sitting in on a gossip session at times. What happened to...? Oh, how did he/she die?

So Admins, I ask you:

Do you list the cause of death in your In Memory of a classmate?

What are your feelings on this topic?

I appreciate your thoughts.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:03 AM - Response #1

It is case by case depending on the information I have.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:04 AM - Response #2

We only feature the obit, if available, but provide no other information. Obits rarely list the cause of death, which always raises the question, what was the cause? Maybe it's to concentrate on the life of the person, and not the death.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:07 AM - Response #3

I have included the obituary or what information the family provides. I also included some photos from the class yearbook to highlight the activities in which they participated. In some cases, classmates have added special remembrances or anectdotes, all very tasteful. This has worked well so far. We do NOT do Facebook.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:09 AM - Response #4

Hi Gwen,

We have a terrific genealogist in our group and she goes and gets the obituaries (sometimes 20+ years old) and that's all we post. For the few cases where no obituary was written we've simply stated date of death but if we had a little more information we might print that as well. But in one case the circumstances were sorry enough we just wanted classmates to remember him as we knew him and so withheld what we did find out.

I think even in other, more benign, situations we probably still would hold back on cause of death as more often than not it's not mentioned in an obituary which would indicate that people are sensitive about it. Bottom line... we want to show respect for our classmates as we'd want for ourselves.


Edited 09/20/11 9:11 AM
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM - Response #5

We have a couple of classmates that when they died, there were articles about them in the newspaper (car crash, jet-skiers). Since the newspaper article was public knowledge, I also posted the newspaper article.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:42 AM - Response #6

The policy I have adopted is post an announcement on the home page that will expire in 10 or 20 days, stating the classmate died, and to see the In Memory page for more information.
There, I post the obit, if available.
Many times, if there is a statement in the obit that the family requests instead of flowers, donate to organizations such as American Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s group, etc., they can pretty well presume the cause of death.
I have gotten emails asking if I know of any details when no such donation request exists. My reply is something like:
‘‘Does it really matter how ‘John Doe’ died? The fact that a classmate of ours died is a time to remember the good time we had together, console the family, and keep them in our prayers, etc.”
On two occasions I have been ‘pressed’ with more questions from a classmate. I then push my ‘tact’ to the side and say something like:
“If it is really that important to you, why don’t you simply call the County Clerk in that county and ask for information off the Death Certificate! OR,you could call the family! Is your life going to be any different if you know?”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM - Response #7

There are people who like knowing the cause of death, like if someone lost his/her fight to cancer or diabetes or got hit by a drunk driver; so they can send a donation to the appropriate organization in the name of the deseased.

But some are sensitive and prefer death announcements without the cause of death. So I kind of play it by ear; ask the family how best to word the announcement...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:23 AM - Response #8

Obits only

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:50 AM - Response #9

I mostly use the obit info. As always there are exceptions

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 11:15 AM - Response #10

The Obituary taken from the public media sources is ususlly the line in the sand. The same information is usually placed in the "In Memory" and a picture whenever possible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM - Response #11

I had an interesting experience 2 weeks before our 40th this past July. I received an anonymous print out in the snail mail at my home. No return address but mailed locally. It was a list of deceased classmates with cause and date of death. At our last committee meeting before the reunion, we had a discussion about the list and decided to stay with year of death only.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM - Response #12

If I know the cause of death...I will add it to the obit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 12:28 PM - Response #13

Everyone's insights are excellent and "case sensitive". Discretion is key, in my opinion.
It's one of those areas that requires The Golden Rule, as in "treat others like you would like to be treated..." and remind others that our "legacy" is how we lived, not necessarily how we died.
We have had some very uncomfortable situations that I have tried to handle with some integrity. There were plenty of moments that others had to "gossip" as they wished,(reunion,fb and's a "small town") but I did not want to fuel any "fires". Any comments have mainly been focused on "happier times", so to speak.
It's always nice to accentuate the positive, even in death.
We will all be there someday and I would hope that others would remember the "good stuff", rather than the "not-so-good" stuff.
If someone persists, I tell them, as politely as I can to contact the family if they really need to know the details.
some phone calls have been heart-wrenching, but it's part of the process.
The desire for "death with dignity" is Universal, in my humble opinion.
Thanks for bringing the topic up and for all the great answers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 8:36 PM - Response #14

Kris Thrailkill wrote:

, as in "treat others like you would like to be treated..."

OK, so if I die doing something stupid, don't post it. Anything else I'm fine withRazz

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:38 PM - Response #15

I agree with the majority. We usually only post the date of death, city if we know it and an obit if we can find it. Of course, we're a multi-year site so we have over 50 years to try to get info on. Fortunately, we have various sources to get information from. Basically, discretion is used but if the info is already out there on the web, then we might link to it if someone is really interested in the details. Thanks for the discussion--it helped answer some of our questions as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 12:04 AM - Response #16

We put all we have, including cause of death as these are old friends and I think it should be shared.

Exception: Suicides are not given. Since we don't know all causes of death, classmates can assume we do not know.

We had one gay-hate death. I just said a violent death as a result of home invasion.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 10:28 AM - Response #17

Several of you have private-messaged me asking what process our genealogist uses to get the obits. Here's her reply...


Don't mind sharing:
First and foremost, the Social Security Death Index, to determine the likelihood of the death of an individual.
We are fortunate to live relatively close to our local library, same town as the school from which we graduated.
If a death date for an individual can be determined, there is usually an obit in the archive of newspapers on microfilm.

If the death occurred in another city or state, a road trip may be necessary. Funeral homes seem to be less and less willing to share information due to violation of privacy.
Check facebook for an unusual name. Even a closed profile can usually be "messaged."

OR in the event of a name change, determining the obit of a parent of an individual, which will list survivors.

The local telephone book from the graduation year can be of great help in determining the name of the parents of a classmate, then looking for the obit of the parent.

In NY State, a site called has a search engine which seeks newspaper articles by last name. This can result in articles regarding births, deaths, marriages, the printout of which can yield additional info.

Sites such as which request payment, do offer just enough information at no charge, so that, with a bit of tweaking, use of reverse look-up, sometimes a hunch, or a stretch, or just plain luck, will come through.

Don't hesitate to call information, and on making the resulting call, be clear, regarding what it is that you are seeking and why.

If you have access to a retirement home or assisted living facility, just wandering in and looking at the directory of residents can be of help.

Age is a number. Don't assume that an individual of a certain age is unable to be of assistance in locating a relative, living or dead. I nearly did that recently, and found a 92-year-old aunt of a classmate, with slight vision problems, who allowed me to look through her address books. A true gem and a lovely visit besides.

It seems that additional search sites are popping up on such a regular basis. All the best in your search.


Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 8:34 PM - Response #18

This is a place to call 'home' at times. Ask a question and you get the answer without hesitation. The majority replied that we are on the same page... date and obits. I will continue as I have the past two years.

I to share and read the kind words and stories classmates have left on the profile of a deceased classmate.

Thanks for your point of view, everyone. Feel free to keep discussing this topic.

Edited 09/22/11 8:36 PM
Friday, September 23, 2011 at 8:12 AM - Response #19

We list the cause of death for most, if we know it. We do not list specifically if a person commits suicide. While this situation is spoken of more openly these days, it was hidden in prior years. We thought it might be more of an invasion of privacy for families than was necessary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM - Response #20

We are very, very new at this. Our site is less than two weeks old and I learn something every day. As to cause of death: I do not address the issue. I consider that "stepping over the line" and tasteless. Our one and only exception - a dear classmate who was KIA Vietnam 1970. Of course, he is the exception to most every rule on our site.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM - Response #21

Linda Satterfield wrote:

We are very, very new at this. Our site is less than two weeks old and I learn something every day. As to cause of death: I do not address the issue. I consider that "stepping over the line" and tasteless. Our one and only exception - a dear classmate who was KIA Vietnam 1970. Of course, he is the exception to most every rule on our site.

Hi Linda,

Oh, the fun you will have... I think. Kidding, of course. As you hang around here and visit many of our sites, I hope you are able to add as many of the ideas you want as fast as you want. I haven't managed that one yet. Smile

About this topic, I recently ran a survey asking my single year class site their opinion. I gave them two choices, this is the one they choose: "If noted in the obituary or written by/approved by a family member of the deceased."

I did this as a 'baby-step' to running the same survey on the multi-year site, if members do not volunteer to be part of a site decision committee. On that site, a member of one class made a comment for each deceased member of her class as to their birth date, date of death and cause of death. Personally, I see that as an opportunity for identity theft, as well as being in poor taste.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and...
Welcome aboard, Linda!

Edited 02/16/12 12:39 AM
Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:28 PM - Response #22

Everett E. Bleakney,Jr. wrote:

Obits only

Us too.

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