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Can obituaries help you figure out the future?

This is a strange point of view.

Obituaries are about the dead, about the past. What can they say about the future?

Well, for one they show how difficult it is to have new ideas accepted. There is resistance to change.

Society is a bit inflexible, and current leadership is invested in the past. H & R Block was founded by Henry and Robert Bloch. They created a business plan and traveled half way across the country to have their “idol” review it. He opined that they would fail. They built the largest individual accounting company in the US.

But obituaries also tell a lot about how those who were excluded adjusted and found other ways to contribute. (When I think of the waste in human capital by the exclusion of women and minorities I shudder.) Then I read an obit and see how many of these folks created their own opportunities.

One example was a lady who was fascinated by oceans. She was excluded from exploring the ocean as a scientist because she was a woman. Instead, she developed maps of the ocean.

Sometimes we make our own luck. That shows resilience and courage and, yes, being stubborn.

Obituaries tell the stories of how some folks believed in what they had invented or studied or believed in and were able, after great struggles, to have their ideas and creations accepted and adopted.

Recently Donald Triplett died. He was the first person diagnosed with autism. He came from a small town in Mississippi. His neighbors took care of him.

He lived to be 89 and his condition led to how children with autism are treated today.


2 Responses

  1. Hello Bob. This is Michael Ridgway the owner of The Steerage Dining Saloon in Port. It was a pleasure speaking with you a few months back. This article falls in line with one of my favorite Sunday rituals in the late 90s while living in the DC area. I would always read the Washington Posts obits to find stories of souls famous and not so famous who had been central in amazing political or cultural events. DC by nature would attract or create these individuals and the retrospectives of their lives were fascinating.

    1. I stopped by a few days ago for your great chowder. Obits are great. The Economist has one a week as the New York Times daily. They are the first pages I turn to. It is amazing to see, however, how different Obits are per publication

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