This may sound a bit morbid, but my favorite section of the newspaper is the obituaries. Each story is a history lesson in itself. In a way, the tour I give of the Lowell Cemetery is a series of oral obituaries shared while walking around a beautiful, natural setting.
While scanning through yesterday’s obituary headlines on the New York Times website, I noticed this one: “Lanny Friedlander, 63, of Reason Magazine, Dies.” Throughout my life I would subscribe to magazines the way I might buy a book. For $12.95, I could get a dozen issues of Runners World or Civil War Times or many others. Unless those issues consistently touched me in some way, I rarely renewed the initial subscription. Because I had once sampled Reason at this literary buffet I decided to read this particular death notice.
The opening paragraph described how Friedlander started the magazine in his dorm room in 1968 with nothing more than a typewriter and a stack of paper, how he had dropped out of sight for 40 years, and the he died “on March 19 in Lowell, Mass.”
What was that? He died in Lowell six weeks ago? Why wasn’t I told?
While still in college, Friedlander became afflicted with mental illness and bounced around, enlisting in the Navy for a short time, driving a cab, but always being afflicted by his illness. He was born and raised in Boston. He ended up in Lowell as a resident of a VA operated halfway house. He was buried from Blake Funeral Home in Chelmsford and buried in the National Cemetery in Bourne. Reason magazine has several stories about his passing (here and here).