Delaware man’s self-written obituary goes viral
WILMINGTON, Del. — Walter G. Bruhl Jr., a resident of Newark and Dewey Beach, is no longer with us.
He died Sunday at 80, leaving his sense of humor behind a while longer thanks to an obituary he wrote that has gone viral on the Internet.
“Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person,” the obit begins, “he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker.”
It’s almost unbelievable. But it’s true. It has more than 120,000 views on Buzzfeed.com.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said CaraLisa Fockler, a secretary at Larry Taylor Funeral and Cremation in Punta Gorda, Fla.
Fockler confirmed Bruhl’s passing.
“I’m absolutely positive because we are cremating him. He was a real guy,” she said, adding the family provided his obituary to the funeral home. “They brought in the obit and said ‘Look, dad wrote this and this is what we want,’ ” she said.
Bruhl died Sunday at a Charlotte County hospital, Fockler said.
A slightly shorter version of the Bruhl’s obit ran in Thursday’s News Journal. The longer version that has been posted on different social network sites, can be found on the funeral home’s website.
The obit provides many funny details of Bruhl’s life, including how he “drifted through the Philadelphia Public School System from 1937 through 1951, graduating, to his mother’s great relief, from John Bartram High School in June of 1951.”
It explains he joined the Marine Corp, where he attained the rank of sergeant, thanks to his cousin Ella and “Hollywood propaganda, to which he succumbed as a child during WW II ... “
Bruhl was married for 57 years to his wife, Helene, whom he said now could purchase the mink coat he had refused her “because he believed only minks should wear mink,” according to the obit. He even brought up how he was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935, a spinal disc in 1974, a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988 and his prostate in 2000.
According to the full obituary, Bruhl said there would be no viewing. That’s because his wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, “refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniel’s in his hand so that he would appear natural to visitors.”
While there is no viewing, there will be a memorial luncheon Saturday at Deerfield near Newark.
“The staff of Deerfield is looking forward to hosting the family and close friends,” said Jeff Robinson, director of sales and management at Deerfield.
Bruhl’s family, who left Florida on Wednesday, could not be reached for comment. But his grandson, Sam Bruhl posted on Facebook, “Typical of my PopPop: he cut out the middleman and wrote his own damn obituary. He’s the only man I’ve ever known to be able to add his own humor like this. So glad I got to read one more thing from my favorite writer.”
Bruhl’s obit has been shared with many people, including Townsend resident Joe Timney, who worked with Bruhl at the DuPont Co.
“That’s absolutely in Walt’s style,” Timney said. “Oh my gosh, he had a fairly dry sense of humor, but just a funny guy.”
The person who shared it with Timney didn’t know the two men had worked together.
“I cracked up as I read this,” Timney said. When told the obit was going viral, he said of Bruhl: “He would just have a big grin on his face like ‘Ha! I showed them.’ “
Not in his obit was Bruhl’s fight with Dewey Beach officials in which he wanted to elevate his home near Rehoboth Bay high enough so that he could escape rising floodwaters, meet federal Flood Insurance requirements and park his car beneath the structure. In November, the town’s Board of Adjustment allowed Bruhl to elevate his home 3 feet higher than the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s minimum requirement of 7 feet above base level elevation, plus an extra foot of freeboard.
That ruling is under appeal.
It’s not common for individuals to write their own obituary, but it is among people who have been meticulous about planning their funeral or memorial service in advance, said Jessica Koth, a spokeswoman with the National Funeral Directors Association.
“Obituaries like Mr. Bruhl’s or the creative and loving tributes written by loved ones are a reflection of the changing nature of how we remember and honor our loved ones who have died,” Koth said. “Today, families have so many options for helping them plan a personal funeral or memorial service that reflects the life of their loved one. The obituary is an extension of that personalized funeral.”
Fockler, who’s worked at the funeral home for 10 years, said many of their clients plan their services. Over the years, the funeral home has had car and motorcycle shows as a part of funerals, as well as a keg party.
“Nothing new for us,” she said. “Families do pictures, they do everything to focus on his life, not his death.”
Some also write their obits, which the family finishes off when that day comes. But Bruhl’s is one of the most interesting obits she’s seen.
“This is a new one,” she said. “The most creative one I’ve ever seen.”