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The Daily Goodbye

Patricia Sullivan

Good morning, believers in power of obits.

It would be a miracle if you hadn't heard yet about Oral Roberts' death.

Cystic fibrosis, a double-lung transplant -- and then Kathryn Waldo laced up her skates and returned to play in the ice hockey rink, where she had starred in college. But her body rejected the transplant and she died Dec. 9.

Michael Polakovs, who died at age 86 on Dec. 6, was a Latvian member of a circus family, and was known to Barnum and Bailey circus-goers as Coco the Clown. To the rest of us, he may have been the creator of Ronald McDonald, the clown who publicizes the McDonald's fast food chain. There's a contentious history here: According to the Telegraph's obit, McDonald's hired him in 1966 to create the character, and Polakovs designed the outfit and make-up, and appeared in the first eight television commercials that featured the character. Others may differ.

I've been dismayed by the increasingly scarce obit pages in American newspapers (to name two formerly excellent sources, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the San Jose Mercury News). Here's a great piece about obit writing in the Cleveland Scene Weekly, an excerpt from "Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart: Tales From the Last Glory Days of Cleveland Newspapers" (2009) by John H. Tidyman.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  December 16, 2009; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , The Daily Goodbye  
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Coco's role in helping design Ronald McDonald is confirmed by both McDonald's and by Coco's family, despite the august authority of Wikipedia.

Willard Scott's Ronald had a Dixie cup nose and a cardboard tray for a hat.

Posted by: smiller6 | December 16, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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