In May 2016, an image purportedly showing the obituary of a woman named Mary Anne Noland started circulating on Facebook, saying that she found had found death preferable to voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump:
- NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. Mary Anne was predeceased by her father, Kyle T. Alfriend Jr. and Esther G. Alfriend of Richmond. She is survived by her husband, Jim; sister, Esther; and brothers, Terry (Bonnie) and Mac (Carole). She was a mother to three sons, Jake (Stormy), Josh (Amy) and David (Katie); and she was “Grammy” to 10 beloved grandchildren.
The obituary was wildly popular on social media, but many viewers who encountered this clipping were skeptical about its authenticity. After all, fake obituaries slamming politicians are not unheard of. This obituary, though, is genuine in the sense that it was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 17 May 2016, who also referenced it in a separate article the following day:
Paid death notices are vignettes about a person’s life, as told by their family or friends. This isn’t the first time a paid death notice has been used to send a personal message to the world. Some have commented on favorite sports teams, places to visit, a drink of choice and, yes, politics.
All content published in The Times-Dispatch is reviewed before publication. In the case of Ms. Noland’s obituary, we’re not surprised by the response.
In other words, it’s true that Mary Anne Noland’s obituary reflects a tongue-in-cheek political statement about the upcoming presidential election that her family members or friends chose to insert into it. It’s not true, however (as some readers have assumed), that the wording of the obituary indicates Ms. Noland opted to take her own life rather than have to make a choice between voting for one of the two leading candidates.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch also pointed out that the obituary for Mary Anne Noland was not the first to mention politics. The obituary for Ernest Overbey Jr., for instance, ended with a call to “please vote for Donald Trump.” Similarly, the obituary for Katherine Michael Hinds said that “in lieu of flowers, do not vote for Donald Trump.”