A lady from Roanoke called yesterday. Her father died last October and she had just learned we list obituaries on our website. She wanted to know how it worked and why the family wasn’t informed of this listing. I explained that this is my 40th year in radio, and as long as I have been doing it, and for who knows how long before me, obituaries have always been read on local radio. When the internet came along, the services we provided on-the-air became services we also provided online. We talked some more, and I learned that she was from Henry County and we both graduated high school in 1979 (different schools). A little more conversation and we discovered we have a mutual acquaintance. Such conversations are common around here, small-town and all.
Her call reminded me about the way things were. Funeral homes used to personally deliver obituaries to the station. If the time for the reading was close at hand, we took them over the phone. When FAX machines came along we all marveled at how an obituary would magically appear from a roll of thermal paper connected to a machine hooked up to a phone line. Before the Martinsville Bulletin had a website, I was posting obituaries online. By the time the Bulletin came of age, funeral homes had their own websites and began posting their own obituaries. As time progressed, some of the funeral homes stopped sending them and the radio audience was left behind.
I began getting complaints from people listening to the obituaries who wanted to know why a certain person’s obituary was not read. It was their perception that we were negligent for not including some of the obituaries. I called the funeral homes and scolded them for shirking this long-accepted responsibility. One young man I spoke with had become manager of a small local funeral home. For many years, the same elderly lady would FAX me hand-written obituaries they serviced. When she left, they stopped. I asked the young man to be sure and send them to us. He didn’t get it. He could not understand why it was important to send the radio station an obituary. He had no knowledge the funeral home he now managed had sponsored one of the readings on radio for many, many years.
Today, I still read the obituaries everyday at 9:55 AM. Sometimes they are sent to me, others have an automated service that email me when the funeral home home posts and obituary to their site. For the rest, my daily duties include visiting the funeral home sites and making sure my listing is complete.
It’s a convoluted time we live in. People coming up today see no reason to duplicate anything, anywhere, that is readily available with a smartphone while those of us trying to keep the connection with those who have managed immunity from the age of wifi is becoming more challenging by the day.