DENVER — The Denver Public Library has received funding from Humanities Iowa, a private, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to host a presentation called “The Obituary — Yours or Someone Else’s” by Mary Kay Shanley at 2 p.m. May 22 at the Denver Library.
The program will explore the evolution of the obituary, which is defined as a notice of death, especially in a newspaper, typically including an account of the person’s life and information about the upcoming funeral.
Beginning in the 19th century, obits were written by reporters, providing crucial information about prominent people and, later, soldiers, public servants and frontiersmen. By the 20th century, obits for ordinary people resulted in the common-man obit. Today, fanned by social media’s penchant for putting everything on the table, we have personalized obituaries that are a mix of facts, observations and tidbits. Written by a family member, friend or even the deceased, they also gift us with knowledge of the past, insight on the present and wisdom for the future.
Mary Kay Shanley is from the Des Moines area and is the author of 10 books, including “Our State Fair — Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story,” “The Memory Box” and “She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes,” a bestseller. Named an Iowa Author of the Year, Shanley is an instructor at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival and leads multi-day writing retreats. She is a member of the Iowa Center for the Book Foundation and occasionally teaches at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville.
Shanley’s presentation will be part of the Denver Genealogy & History Club’s monthly meeting, but the program is open to the public and free to attend.