Obituary Ethics: The Anello Family Follies

What is there left to say about this? According to the Tampa Bay Times, the sibling who placed the obituary (guess which one) claimed that all he was doing was memorializing his mother’s own opinion regarding her children. Whether this is true or not, his conduct in composing such a petty and inappropriate obituary can’t be defended. Such announcements are not to be warped into weapons of intra-family warfare, not is it ethical to put words in his dead mother’s mouth when she is not around to confirm or correct them. If Josie was like most mothers—mine, for example—what she would have wanted was for her children to reconcile their differences and love each other. I doubt that she actively sought her death to be used as means of increasing the acrimony, but even if she did, that is a goal no son should pursue in her name.

Petty, mean, selfish, vengeful,  as blatant a Golden Rule violation as you are likely to find and a breach of trust to all concerned,  the obituary composed by A.J. Anello (Whoops! Gave it away!) exploited a family tragedy to hurt his brother and sister at a time when they were already grieving, for no legitimate purpose other than to settle scores and be cruel.

I hope, for his sake, that Peter and Ninfa don’t have the opportunity to write his obituary, or that if they do, they show more respect and decency than their vicious brother.

And if A.J. doesn’t want them to have the opportunity to write his obit, he might want to watch his back from now on.

Thanks to Lianne Best for sending me this.

11 thoughts on “Obituary Ethics: The Anello Family Follies

  1. Reminds me of the tale of the Scottish widow who contacted the local newspaper to arrange an obituary for her husband. When she learned that the paper actually charged for same, she was incensed but agreed to pay the £10 fee.

    She wrote out: Sandy MacDonald is daid at 87.

    The editor said that the feel entitled her to 100 characters and spaces. Favoring the editor with a withering glance, she scribbled on paper and handed the following to the editor:

    Sandy MacDonald is daid at 87. FS: 2005 VW Golf, 1 owner, low miles, good condition, XX-XXXX-XXX.

      • It’s PC to mock Scots as tight with a dollar, but no other ethnic groups? (No, I’ not a Scot). Ah, well, my favorite Scot joke: Sandy MacTavish had too much “water of life” and on his way home fell unconscious in a ditch. An hour later, along came two giddy American tourist girls. They’d always wondered what a Scot wore under his kilt, so they seized the opportunity — and there was Sandy in all his glory. As a lark, one girl took the blue hair ribbon from her coif, and tied it around Sandy’s member; and they went on their way.

        Next morn: Sandy awoke, looked down at himself and exclaimed: “I doan know where ye been, but I’m delighted to see ye won first prize.”

        • That was a good one, Curmugeon! There’s something about Scotsmen that seems to inspire irreverent humor. It certainly has in Hollywood since the beginning. I think that, in a way, it reflects an admiration that derives from our cultural ties to the “Scotch-Irish” pioneers who were so instrumental in settling the Southern states. It’s part of the American mentality to insult the things we love!

  2. What about the ethics of the paper in publishing that obit? Should, or could, they have refused? Is it any of their business?
    Can’t wait for the reading of the Will….

  3. What strikes me about this story is that it becomes even more interesting if you add in this hypothetical (which theoretically COULD be true):
    What if Josie Anello gave her son A.J. explicit instructions that this was what she wanted on he obituary, word-for-word? (And we assume that this fact is not in dispute, because of the existence of a note in her handwriting with the exact wording.)

    Is such a dying request unethical?
    If it is, and A.J. objects to doing it, what is the ethical course for him?

    It strikes me as similar to an earlier article about unreasonable dying requests, but in this case it’s different in that it’s not actually a burden on the living, just mean-spirited towards the other children. Is this a case of “ethics oogies” or is it actually unethical?

    –Dwayne

    • I’d vote that it’s unethical as a dying wish, and the paper would have an ethical obligation to refuse to run it. Papers usually would allow readers to buy ads attacking other individuals, and that’s really what this “obit” became. And I think the paper should have insisted that the personal attacks be left out of what was printed. An obituary is a public notice, and an accommodation to the family and community. It’s not a blank billboard that a paper is obligated to erect to communicate any sentiments and opinions whether they relate to the deceased or not.

      • That occurred to me, too. Sibling feuds of this sort can be pretty nasty and long duration. The issue, of course, is plastering them in a newspaper upon the death of an elderly parent. I can’t understand why the newspaper allowed this to be printed, knowing that it amounted to a libelous attack.

  4. The death of a parent often brings out the worst in the siblings. I remember the fight that occurred when my Grandmother died. My father and uncles met one morning to agree to give all of my grandparent’s possessions to my aunt. My parents and my uncles, though not rich, are financially comfortable. My aunt has gone from financial crisis to financial crisis most of her life and she was close by to care for my grandparents in their final years. My aunt found out about the morning meeting, unfortunately and confronted them, telling them they were rats for secretly meeting about the inheritance and listing off all she had done for her parents. My father calmly replied that they were well aware of everything she had said and that is why they met to agree to give her everything.

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