Most newspaper obituaries adhere to one of a handful of set formulas that incorporate listing the name of the deceased, date of passing, predeceasing and surviving relatives, and where and when services will be held. Some deviate from this standard by providing additional information about the departed, information that is almost always of a laudatory nature. However, every now and again one encounters a written send-off that is far from the expected loving expression of facts about the person who died.
Such was the case with the obituary of Dolores Aguilar. The obit for this 79-year-old woman ran on 16 and 17 August 2008 in the Vallejo [California] Times-Herald. It was placed by one of the deceased’s many daughters:
Dolores Aguilar 1929 – Aug. 7, 2008
Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, Raymond, her son, Paul Jr., and daughter, Ruby. She is survived by her daughters Marietta, Mitzi, Stella, Beatrice, Virginia and Ramona, and son Billy; grandchildren, Donnelle, Joe, Mitzie, Maria, Mario, Marty, Tynette, Tania, Leta, Alexandria, Tommy, Billy, Mathew, Raymond, Kenny, Javier, Lisa, Ashlie and Michael; great-grandchildren, Brendan, Joseph, Karissa, Jacob, Delaney, Shawn, Cienna, Bailey, Christian, Andre Jr., Andrea, Keith, Saeed, Nujaymah, Salma, Merissa, Emily, Jayci, Isabella, Samantha and Emily. I apologize if I missed anyone.
Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing. Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself.
As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.
According to John Bogert of the Daily Breeze (a newspaper based in the South Bay area of Los Angeles), Dolores Aguilar’s daughter was moved to place the notice after reviewing the obituary of a co-worker’s father and noting as she read through it how little any of it fit her mother. “What struck me was how my mother was none of the things I was reading. She was never there for us, she was never good and she left no legacy. So how could I say any of the usual things about her?” said the daughter to Bogert. She and her siblings, she maintained, were kept “unfed, poorly clothed and completely terrorized.”
Before agreeing to run the unusual obituary, the Times-Herald took the additional step of requesting a copy of the death certificate, just to ensure that what they were being asked to publish wasn’t a hoax. It wasn’t: the woman being memorialized had passed away on 7 August 2008.
On 10 September 2013, the Reno Gazette-Journal published a similar obituary (in both its print and online versions) for Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick, who had passed away at the age of 78 and was described in her obit as having “neglected and abused her small children” and lived an “evil and violent life”:
Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Aug. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.
On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.
Most of us have found peace in helping those who have been exposed to child abuse and hope this message of her final passing can revive our message that abusing children is unforgivable, shameless, and should not be tolerated in a “humane society”. Our greatest wish now, is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.
Johnson-Reddick’s unusual obituary quickly garnered national attention, and the Gazette-Journal published a follow-up article explaining its origins:
Katherine Reddick, 57, said she wrote the obituary about her mother, 78, who died at a Reno nursing home. Her mother had bladder cancer and had become a ward of the state when she became sick and was hospitalized.
The two were not in contact.
Katherine Reddick, who works in education in Texas, described a horrific childhood that she and her brothers and sisters endured. Moved from California to Las Vegas to eventually live in an orphanage in Carson City, she described being abused for years by her mother and in multiple foster homes. Reddick said she slept on the floors of places where her mother ran escort businesses.
From 1963 to 1964, six of Johnson-Reddick’s [eight] children were admitted to the Nevada Children’s Home in Carson City, the long-standing orphanage that closed in 1992.
The children lived there until they either turned 18, joined the military, got married or were ordered to go back and live with their mother, according to state documents at the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
“We were constantly physically, mentally abused even after being taken away and put in the children’s home,” Patrick Reddick said during testimony in 1987. He said that on weekends, they were sent home to an office in Reno, sometimes lined up and beaten with a steel-tipped belt.
Katherine and her brother Patrick said they talked about writing the obituary after learning about their mother’s death. Both are graduates of Carson High School.
They said they did not expect the obituary to garner national attention.
“People may see this as something we did to shame our mother,” Patrick Reddick, the second oldest of eight children, said in a phone interview. “But this is to bring shame to the issue of child abuse. I want every single person to realize this could be your obituary.”