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The Daily Goodbye

Patricia Sullivan

Good morning.

The founder of Sonic drive-in, Troy Smith, died Monday. Ever hear of it? It's a $600 million publicly traded company based in Oklahoma City, which operates nearly 3,600 drive-ins and serves more than a million customers daily.

Irene K. Fischer put a tape measure around the earth for the Army Mapping Service, although she couldn't believe it at first when the government explained her task. "Wasn't I taught that in grade school already? How come they don't know?'' Mrs. Fischer thought, according to her 2005 memoir.

Thomas Brown, a historian of the Irish Catholics in America and of Boston, died Friday at age 89. "I often try to position myself so I can view upriver as we pass, to see the old structure of Boston beneath the new one,'' he told the Globe in 1988. "I love those minutes when I can take in the staggering beauty of the city.''

Willard Oliver, one of 400 Navajo who flummoxed the Japanese during World War II by using their native language to communicate, died earlier two weeks ago. I hadn't found a good obit of him until now; it's good to see that the uniquely American code talkers are appreciated overseas.

Lest we forget, in our intrigue at the arc of peoples' lives, the toll that death takes on the living. Maria Shriver reminds us, as she reflected on the death of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. "I go through my days trying to act incredibly normal. ... I go through the motions," she said. "But every minute of every day, I can feel my broken heart." She tries to present a front, but "The real truth is, I'm not fine," she said. "The real truth is, my mother's death has brought me to my knees. I had feared it my entire life. I was terrified that when it actually happened, I wouldn't be able to go on."

By Patricia Sullivan  |  October 28, 2009; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , The Daily Goodbye  
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