Man's funny viral obituary has strangers dying of laughter

He was a fan of "The Blues Brothers," but not of the Kardashians. You probably would've liked Vietnam combat veteran Terry Wayne Ward.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

You probably didn't know Terry Wayne Ward, of DeMotte, Indiana. But after reading his obituary, you may wish you had.

Ward, 71, died of a stroke on Jan. 23, "leaving behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse."


The Vietnam combat veteran lived his life on his own terms, "never owned a personal cell phone and had zero working knowledge of the Kardashians."

Ward's obituary, which was written by his daughter Jean Lahm, is the latest witty death notice to take on a viral life of its own. 

Ward's daughter dubbed him a "renowned distributor of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches to his grandchildren," and noted that he "despised 'uppity foods' like hummus, which his family lovingly called 'bean dip' for his benefit."

He was a lineman for the phone company, but that didn't stop him from letting the woman who became his wife think "lineman" meant "NFL player."

His obit also noted that "Terry died knowing that 'The Blues Brothers' was the best movie ever, (young) Clint Eastwood was the baddest-ass man on the planet, and hot sauce can be added to absolutely any food."

Ward's obituary ran online beginning Jan. 25, and was picked up by retired journalist Jim Romenesko and other sources.

It's not the first obit to go viral, naturally. In this world of sharing and social media, our deaths can live as large as we did -- or larger. These days, online obit company Legacy.com publishes an obit for 75 percent of the people who die in the US every year, Legacy Vice President Katie Falzone told me in 2017. But only some of them hit enough funny bones to go rocketing around social media. Ward's is the latest, and for good reason.

"(The fact that Ward) was 'preceded in death by ... a 1972 Rambler and a hip' made me laugh for five minutes," Terry Welch wrote on Romenesko's Facebook page.

"I never imagined that his obituary would have gone viral as it has, and the irony isn't lost on me, as the man had no idea what a hashtag is," Lahm wrote on Romenesko's page. "That being said, it's damn cool that this brought laughter to so many! And although I'm proud I was able to memorialize him this way, if he had written it, you better believe it would have been funnier by a long stretch."

Ward's daughter says her dad would appreciate his posthumous fame.

"Thank you for sharing," she wrote. "He is perched on his favorite chair, looking down and loving every minute of it."

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