Letters to Dad

C. Earl Bender (Plain Dealer)The obituary that the family of C. Earl Bender placed for him in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer begins:

My friend and lover of 56 years has “kicked the bucket” as he said to me, his wife, Hildegarde on August 8, 2011, at home surrounded by his loving family.

Those who knew him, don’t need a list of things he did, and those who didn’t know him, wouldn’t care. But his children each left a love letter to him.

As a professional obituary writer, I wanted that “list of things he did” to identify him to people who may have seen him around his community or workplace, but didn’t necessarily know his name. But as a mother and grandmother, I appreciate these love notes, which paint a portrait of a man who was well-loved and admired.

From his son William: Deaf in one ear so that he might not hear, but he always listened; Blind in one eye, but he saw everything; Crippled in one leg by Polio, but he always kept up, with our dreams, pains, troubles and luck.

Son Clifford wrote: I can’t remember the good times, because there were no bad times. . . If I could pick my father again, I’d still choose you.

Daughter Jennifer called him “a steadfast rock in this ever-changing world.”

Daughter Amy: You are always willing to go on an adventure and you have always demonstrated what love should look like; both for your kids and more importantly, your wife. So thanks Dad, for making math fun... For telling me I can do anything I want to do... Thanks for teaching me that as long as I try my hardest, and give something my best shot, then I shouldn’t be disappointed. Thanks for being the best Dad.


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer who lives in Northeast Ohio. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.