One of the saddest parts of my job is reading the obituaries and noticing a letter writer has died.
I have a strange and dysfunctional relationship with most writers. Whether they are silent or prolific, funny or funereal, searingly clear or frustratingly obtuse, they make up the fabric of my day.
Yet, beyond their names and their addresses and their pet topics, I don’t know them at all.
So I read the obituary for William H. “Bill” Goodenow — W. Harrison Goodenow, as he signed his letters — with curiosity. He died last month at 75. I learned from his obituary that his college degree was in industrial management, which would explain his many letters exhorting the school system to be more professional in its management.
As I read on, I learned more personal things: He went to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., an all-male liberal arts school with a fearsome football rivalry with my kids’ college, DePauw. He worked for Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., the same company my Dad worked for on the assembly line after he lost his job as a salesman.
A little more research and I was reminded Bill lived a few doors away from my Mom’s cul-de-sac in east Rockford.
It made me think how small our circles are. We could be just one question away from finding the surprising ways our lives intersect. It’s too bad — and it’s too late — when it has to happen in an obituary.