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The Daily Goodbye

Patricia Sullivan

A master potter, Otto Heino who reformulated a lost-to-the-ages Chinese glaze that made him a multimillionaire, died last week of acute renal failure. He was 94 and still threw 30 pots a day, packed and shipped all his orders. Good video attached.

Like duct tape, WD-40 is one of those household products that no Mr. Fix-It wants to be without. John Barry, who took over Rocket Chemical Co. of San Diego in 1969, realized the value of his company's product, used to protect the skin of the Atlas missile from corrosion. Employees had been sneaking it out of the plant for home use, and selling it from the trunk of their cars, company lore says. Barry decreed a company name change and began selling the 40th version of the water-displacement chemical to consumers and businesses.

Could a little boy imagine a better livelihood than that of David Merrell? The Minnesota scientist caught frogs for a living (well, there was a little scientific research involved, too). Best quote: "He was a virtuoso with the frog net," said his son Jim, a history professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "He'd sneak up behind a frog, he'd stomp his foot and the frog would jump right into the net."

Honesty is the best policy: "Buffalo George" Toomer of Dallas, an adman who created the Frito Bandito character, attributed his own death to "complications of doing all the wrong things, living too well and the addictive results of good cigars, pepperoni and sausage pizza and Häagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream." Toomer was cremated, but had he chosen to be buried, he wanted his tombstone to read, "I finally found a diet that works!"

Read this with a bit of skepticism (it's one of those trend stories whose underlying numbers are a bit soft) but apparently there's increased interested in burials by family members rather than professionals, according to advocates for the cause.

At the Los Angeles County coroner's office -- which handles homicides and other suspicious deaths -- there are more unclaimed bodies than ever before. The office says 36% more cremations were done at taxpayers' expense in the last fiscal year over the previous year, from 525 to 712.

But at least they're getting buried. In Illinois, funeral directors are "gravely concerned" (their words) because the state budget crisis means the end of the state paying for indigent burials.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  July 21, 2009; 8:08 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , The Daily Goodbye  
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