Fun With Obituaries

Several ordinary life stories, if told in rapid succession, tend to make life look far more pointless than it really is, probably.

— Kurt Vonnegut

Is that a fact? Let’s try it and see! Here are some excerpts from this week’s obituaries in the Irvine World News:

Justin Pollard

Former Irvine resident Justin Pollard died Dec. 30. The 21-year-old resident of Foothill Ranch died in a noncombat incident while he was stationed with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Cemetery

Military officials have told the family only that he was the victim of an “accidental discharge of a rifle,” said Spc. Pollard’s father, Bill Pollard. The Army specialist drove a small tank and was due to return from his tour of duty in April.

He was deeply angered by the attack on New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Within a few days he enlisted in the Army and left for training in October.

His grandmother, Ann Jensen, recalled that he was proud of his military uniform, as he had been of his varsity baseball and football uniforms at Trabuco Hills High School.

Donald John Dreeland

Longtime Irvine resident Donald John Dreeland died Nov. 29 of a heart attack. He was 56. He had no history of heart disease and collapsed at home in College Park.

He always loved sports and continued to be an avid fan after an ankle injury sidelined him some years ago. He was a coach for his sons’ baseball teams in Irvine. He enjoyed attending games of all kinds and was a particular fan of the New York Yankees and New York Giants.

He also loved golf, his wife said. At work he participated in a golf league and played additional games regularly. He was also on the emergency response team at his work.

Charles Maynard Taylor

Charles Maynard Taylor died at his Irvine home Dec. 16. He was 83 and he, his wife and daughter were one of the first families to live in University Park.

Mr. Taylor worked in the aerospace industry where his specialty was plastics. He worked for Douglas Aircraft and Rockwell and then managed the plastics shop at Ford Aeroneutronics in Newport Beach. A co-worker there once said that Mr. Taylor knew more about plastics than anyone else, recalled his wife.

He was the kind of man who was always busy, always helping people with projects, even outside his work.

“Anything anyone wanted to do in plastics — the Boy Scouts, friends — he helped them,” said Mrs. Taylor.

He liked playing golf and was an avid sports fan and an enthusiastic Lakers basketball supporter.

“He loved anything that moved on television, any sport,” his wife said.

He was interested in all kinds of things, especially historical things.

Luster ‘Hud’ Huddleston

Irvine resident Luster “Hud” Huddleston died Dec. 17 of natural causes after reaching his goal of passing his 90th birthday in November.

He was named Luster for the hero in a book his mother was reading while she was expecting him. For an unknown reason, the family called him Paul for several years until he settled on Hud, the name he was known by most of his life.

 

You’d have to assume from reading obituaries that no one ever had the least trouble with life.

A more likely scenario is suggested by the following excerpt, not from the Irvine World News, but from Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, a collection of free-verse monologues from the dead in an Illinois graveyard:

CASSIUS HUEFFER

They have chiseled on my stone the words:
“His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him
That nature might stand up and say to all the world,
This was a man.”
Those who knew me smile
As they read this empty rhetoric.

My epitaph should have been:
“Life was not gentle to him,
And the elements so mixed in him
That he made warfare on life,
In the which he was slain.”
While I lived I could not cope with slanderous tongues,
Now that I am dead I must submit to an epitaph
Graven by a fool!

[The epitaph in the first stanza is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, spoken of Brutus by Antony — HW]

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