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The Life of an Obituary Writer / Nick Ehrhardt

The Life of an Obituary Writer

For decades Alana Baranick brought the recently deceased back to life on the page as an obituary writer for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer (and other newspapers).

"I actually thought that some people she wrote about were never more alive than they were in her gentle hands," said Chris Quinn, her former editor, while being interviewed for a moving tribute to Baranick’s life.

Instead of simply relying on a funeral home news release, she would conduct her own research. She spent hours with grieving families, learning the many details that shaped the lives of their deceased loved ones.

Former writer and editor Mary Anne Sharkey, who hired Baranick to work at The Plain Dealer in 1992, said, "She saw every life as important and worth writing about. You didn't have to be famous or in the news. She believed everyone had a story in them."

Baranick, 65, died April 10, 2015, after a brief battle with cancer. Her writing lives on, however, in the book Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers, which she co-wrote in 2005, and in "The Dash Between," an obituary feature she penned for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram documenting the lives of everyday people.

Read more about Baranick’s life and impact in this moving article featuring quotes from her colleagues.