We're cheering Toledo man Freeman Hudson after reading his extraordinary obituary.
By: Linnea Crowther
6 months ago
The obituary for Toledo radio deejay Freeman Hudson is extraordinary.
Why? Not because it richly describes his radio career — that only makes it into two short paragraphs. Not because it's funny (it isn't), or because it was written by the deceased (it wasn't — Toledo Blade reporter Mark Zaborney wrote the obit).
What makes Hudson's obituary a revelation begins in the very first line:
"Freeman W. Hudson, a radio host and a retired maintenance worker who was supportive of his wife's legal and electoral careers [emphasis mine], died Wednesday..."
Have you ever seen a description like that in an obituary before? I'll bet you have. Except it probably read a little more like "…who was supportive of her husband's legal and electoral careers…."
It's been a common theme in women's obituaries since pretty much the dawn of obits. A woman's own accomplishments are great, but we can't forget to focus on her husband's career as we remember her life.
First ladies, for example, can spend long lives doing incredible things, and their obituaries will still put "wife of" in sentence number one. An obituary for Eleanor Roosevelt in the New York Times introduces her as "Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt" and doesn’t even mention her first name until paragraph six. It's just par for the course in the obituaries of notable women with notable husbands, whether they’re in politics, business, or entertainment.
You're even more likely to see this in shorter obituaries for non-famous women, especially among older generations. Never mind the non-stop nature of a mom's life, the career she may have held, or the many things she may have done after the kids grew up; the first sentence is more likely to focus on her nurturing care for her family than on her other accomplishments.
That's why it's just a little bit thrilling to see the convention turned on its ear in Hudson's obituary. As his wife, Paula Hicks-Hudson, ascended through local politics, serving as Toledo's mayor and now running for Ohio's House of Representatives, Hudson had her back, the obituary says:
"Mr. Hudson attended public events for his wife — speeches, celebrations, and rallies — and was content that the spotlight was hers. He did what he could to support his wife's aspirations, 'but that was me,' his wife said. 'He believed that was something I wanted to do. He would help me at home and keep me sane.'
"'He was my partner. What I needed, he was there,' she said. 'He was my No. 1 cheerleader.'"
The obituary doesn't skimp on describing Hudson's own life and character, but his support for his wife is front and center.
As more women enter political life — and more men find meaning and purpose in staying home with their children — maybe we'll see more obituaries like this in the future.