DOVER — Countless times over the years, this editor has heard readers say they turn to the obituaries first each day.
The reasons are many.
We’ve heard it often joked that a reader will check to see if his or her name is in there before starting the day’s work.
Mostly, it simply speaks to the nature of a close and caring community. Day after day, we read about the accomplishments and passions of the deceased.
And sometimes we find a little inspiration in their life stories.
Ruth Love’s obituary did just that Thursday. She died at Silver Lake Center in Dover Monday at the age of 100.
The obituary included her words, “Each day I watch the sunset and ask myself, did I help someone today? Did I make someone feel better for knowing me?”
On Friday, this editor called her son, Ron, and asked about its inclusion.
“This is from her heart,” he said.
There’s a fun back story.
In 1986, she won the title of Ms. Senior Ohio. She went on to the Ms. Senior America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., and won the title of Ms. Inner Beauty.
As contestants walked down the runway in the national event, recordings of the contestants’ philosophies were played.
Ms. Love’s philosophy:
Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.
My philosophy is to seek certain goals and to direct my behavior throughout life.
I take one day at a time, gathering courage to do what is right and taking responsibility for my actions.
I try to focus on my blessings and not what is lacking in me.
Each day I watch the sunset and ask myself, ‘Did I help someone today? Did I make someone feel better for having known me?
I shall not pass this way again so I try to be in control of my life and survive with spirituality, hope, dignity and grace.
Then I can hope that the best is yet to be.
Ms. Love included those words in an autobiography — “Magnolia Castleberry: A Love Story” — that she wrote on a manual typewriter in 1987. Magnolia — Maggie — was her pen name, her son Ron said.
Mr. Love said he was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Scott Air Force Base at the time of the pageant. He recalled traveling to Atlantic City to see her compete. During a talent portion in which she danced and sang, she wore a red silk dress her son had bought her in Ohio.
In her book, she wrote about a bus load of friends that came in from North Olmsted, Ohio, to cheer her on. She made small white bags with the words, “Thanks, Maggie,” on them and gave each an Ohio banner to wear to the event.
Ms. Love led an interesting life, raising three children with her late husband Merrill.
Among her interests was travel and flying. Another highlight of her obituary was her participation in a 1971 All Woman Transcontinental Air Race from Calgary, Alberta, to Baton Rouge, La.
“She flew all over,” said her son Ron, “but she was always looking after us as a good mother.”
He recalled one day that he was off to go play basketball when she asked him to instead sit down and write an essay on why he should be the Cleveland Indians’ batboy.
He did not win, but he was a finalist and earned two season tickets.
Her encouragement was always there, he said.
When it came time for him to choose a college, she asked him to try to get into the U.S. Air Force Academy, even though he already had an ROTC scholarship lined up at Purdue University.
Ron Love has worked for Delaware’s Department of Education for the past 19 years. Prior to that, he was the vice wing commander at Dover Air Force Base.
What do you want your obituary to say?
Reach editor Andrew West at firstname.lastname@example.org