Writing an Obituary

In the midst of the worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19, life goes on. And, life, for some people, ends. Many people are, of course, dying from the virus but many other people are dying from other causes. It was against this backdrop of COVID-19 that I received a phone call on Monday, April 6, 2020 from the wife of a dear friend regarding his death on April 4, 2020. And, not only did she want me to know about his passing, she wanted me to write an obituary for him. I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, having published books and articles in scientific journals, but, until then, I had never written an obituary. (My mother was thoughtful enough to write her own obituary, leaving only the date she died for me to fill in upon her death. I thought it was strange when she gave it to me 20 or so years before she died, but I appreciated not having to think of what to say when she passed away.) I was surprised to learn of my friend’s passing, but even more surprised to be asked by his widow to write an obituary, but of course, I agreed to do it. I decided not to call it an obituary but rather, a tribute to my friend. I will continue my tribute for the remainder of this post. My friend’s name was Dr. Russell A. Jones. I met him in the mid 1980s when he was the Chairperson of the Psychology Department at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where I was employed as an Adjunct Professor. (I worked at UNF for 5 years, while simultaneously working as Director of Marketing Research at a large hospital.) Russ, like me, was a social psychologist although, unlike me, Russ was a famous social psychologist who was well known for his research on the self fulfilling prophecy. There are some people we meet in life with whom we instantly form a bond and for me, one of these people was Russ. He was a great department chair, mentor, and friend. He had a dry sense of humor that kept me laughing every time we were together. When David and I decided to move away from Jacksonville so that I could pursue my career as a jury/trial consultant, Russ tried to talk me out of it by offering me a full time professor job at UNF. He hosted a going away party for me that was, to this day, the best party anyone has ever had in my honor. He was truly a great friend and a wonderful person. I am honored to have known him and honored he considered me as his friend.

I’ve not been asked to handle the task of writing an obituary, or providing a eulogy at a funeral – something Melissa has also done on more than one occasion.  But, I will add to the tribute to Russ Jones.  Way back when Melissa was teaching at UNF, I had a number of occasions to meet the other psychology department faculty members as they had quite a few parties.  Melissa was already a part of the UNF community by the time we met.  Russ’ arrival was a big deal for the psychology department which had previously appointed the department chair from among existing faculty.  He was an outsider, and a famous one at that.  He was humble and unassuming.  Thus, it took a little time for Melissa, then me, to learn about him.  She explained to me that he was a pioneer in the area of self fulfilling prophecies, had written numerous books, etc. It became more and more interesting to observe him interact with, and manage, the myriad of personalities in a psychology department.  As Melissa noted, later we spent time with Russ and Karen, often with us as tour guides for them.  I have fond memories of being in the Everglades with them – on an airboat as well as touring Miami Beach taking in the beautiful sights there.  That Russ and I also shared an interest in photography was also a plus.  Russ leaves the world a better place for having lived the life he did.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes