How to Submit an Obituary in Berkeleyside

A grid of photos of people who have died.  In one, a man tweaks his mustache.  In another, a woman dances in a stream like a bird.  In another, a man has a goofy face, a hat, and a scruffy bow tie.
Berkeleyside obituaries honor the extraordinary lives led in this city. Clockwise from bottom left: Christopher Catlett, Glenn Yasuda, Elder Sanders, Norma Hongisto, and Patricia Bulitt. Courtesy of his friends and family. Bulitt Photo: Martha Luehrmann

A Tilden Park ranger hooting at owls and bending eucalyptus trees at jungle gyms. The first lesbian in Israel’s legislature. A formerly homeless woman who performed gospel songs for people protesting the Caltrans raids. A stevedore who followed her mother Mable Howard into activism. A free spirit who danced in streams and hosted storytelling tea parties.

Countless remarkable lives are lived in Berkeley, each leaving a mark on their neighborhood and community. Most of the residents never make the news, but are still important to the city’s history.

Since 2010, we have been publishing obituaries written by relatives or friends of the deceased. This helps our newsroom and readers learn more about Berkeley’s history and provides a free service to loved ones.

Scroll down for details on how to send a tribute to your late loved one

“We launched local obituaries early on in Berkeleyside because we knew it was a valuable service to our community and would help tell the story of our city through the people who make it work,” said Tracey Taylor, Berkeleyside co-founder and editorial director. of its nonprofit parent Cityside. Berkeleyside’s sister site, The Oaklandside, recently started its own obituary show.

For decades, newspapers had robust obituary sections where readers could find detailed stories, written by seasoned journalists, about neighbors and strangers alike. As the news industry has struggled, publications have cut costs and in-depth reporting obituaries are often on the chopping block. In developing this series, we consulted with other journalists who have done a lot of thinking about why obituaries matter.

“I think it’s really important for news organizations to remember that there is no replacement for this,” said Kristen Hare, a Poynter faculty member who writes obituaries for the Tampa Bay Times.

“If we’re not telling the stories of the winery owners and the piano teachers and the folk artists, they’re not being told. I think it’s essential that local news organizations make space for members of our community to get to know each other.”

Hare is an obituary evangelist. In addition to reviving the Tampa Bay Times obituary series, he completed a fellowship with the Reynolds Institute of Journalism to explore the potential of informed obituaries to build community and new audiences.

“Almost every week, I feel like I’m writing a mini-story, a puzzle piece to understand a place I’ve lived in for years,” Hare told us.

Residents can share obituaries for free

We share the stories of Berkeley residents by showing their impact on local communities, even if it means breaking with traditional journalistic and obituary norms.

For example, we regularly share pre-release previews of obituaries with friends and family of the deceased (something you can’t do in daily reports) and encourage them to suggest changes to the headlines, layout, and content.

Unlike reporting breaking news, we don’t rush to post obituaries, giving grieving writers time to share their memories.

Berkeleyside obituaries are published free of charge. Many media outlets charge families based on the length of the obituary, using them as a source of income.

“From the beginning, we also offered this service free of charge because we don’t want anyone’s story to go untold due to financial constraints,” Taylor said.

The news industry has undergone significant change and destabilization in recent years, with the media striving to remain open. But putting a price tag on submitting an obituary can lead to residents “receiving a $1,500 or $3,000 bill for sharing their story in a local publication,” Hare said.

These costs limit who can document their losses, Hare said. “When you look at the paid obituaries, you see that the ones that are longer tend to be about white men.” At Berkeley’s diversity, we believe it would be wrong to preserve only the stories of residents whose families can afford it.

“Death is so strangely monetized in this country,” added Berkeleyside managing editor Zac Farber, who now oversees the Berkeleyside community obituary program. “People are dealing with so much logistics around the death of loved ones.” He said he often hears obituary writers say it’s a relief to find a process that treats them “compassionately and professionally.”

“We don’t charge, but we let people know they can support our work with donations,” and they often choose to, Farber said.

The Berkeleyside community obituaries section is one of the longest-running features readers of the site have come to love and count on, often highlighting key political and cultural figures from Berkeley’s storied past and beloved residents.

For Farber, obituaries are journalism, like everything Berkeleyside publishes. In small, tight-knit Berkeley, many readers will have had a big or small connection to the subject of an obituary.

“There are going to be hundreds or thousands of people here who knew them,” Farber said. “His life is as interesting as anything we do.”

How to Honor Your Loved One in Berkeleyside

If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be wondering how you can share your memory of them at Berkeleyside.

We welcome submissions from all members of the Berkeley community, regardless of whether they were living in or deeply connected to the city at the time of their death. If you would like to submit an obituary for someone you are not related to, we ask that you contact their family for permission before submitting.

If you would like to honor your loved one, please email the text of the obituary and a photograph to [email protected] and provide a few additional details via the form below.

Thank you for trusting us with your stories. We are honored to help tell you.