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The Daily Goodbye

Patricia Sullivan

Good morning, readers. Robert S. McNamara, 93, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War, and later the president of the World Bank, died this morning. You read it here first.

Togo W. Tanaka, a former journalist and businessman whose reports on life inside the Manzanar internment camp illuminated divisions in the Japanese American community after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the tensions that eventually erupted in riots at the World War II-era detention center, has died. He was 93.

A modernist painter well-known in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Henry has died at 96. "I am not interested in portraying life as such, but I am interested in portraying ideas and emotions," she once said. "What I would like most of all to be able to do would be to find in my painting the connection of humanity to the universe - a truly symbolic relationship made visible."

Details are somewhat short on the death of Bela Kiraly, one of the military leaders of Hungary's short-lived anti-Soviet revolution in 1956. He was 97 and seems to have died Saturday morning in Budapest.

Allen Klein
, who was widely blamed for the breakup of the Beatles after he took control of their finances, has died. Here's another take on him; seems like he is still controversial nearly 40 years later.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  July 6, 2009; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , The Daily Goodbye  
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Next: Robert S. McNamara -- His Words, Your Forum


A question for the obit team - how far in advance to you have an obit written? With McNamara, given his age and celebrity I assume you've had an obit template for decades. What about someone like Michael Jackson? Or Tiger Woods? Or are there obit files on just about anyone of prominence?

Just curious about the business.

Posted by: qazqaz | July 6, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Hard to answer that without knowing when someone will die. We have advance obits written for a lot of people but when we tackle a new one, it's usually because the person is of advanced age, has some life-threatening illness or is so world famous that it would be impossible to do well on deadline (example: presidents).

We've had the McNamara obit ready for some years -- I don't know exactly how long because this one, like some others, did not have an origination dates. The Michael Jackson death caught us by surprise -- my colleague Matt Schudel blogged about that shortly after his death -- because Jackson was 50 and could still have made an impact on the music world.

Advance obits are fun to do but they are a Sisyphean task. We focus on politics, since this is the Washington Post, but we also know people care about important cultural, scientific and media figures, so we do those as well. It's a pretty high bar to get an advancer done. We have to strongly believe that readers will still remember who the person was decades from now.

Posted by: Patricia Sullivan | July 7, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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