When I was working at the newspaper in the early ’90s, beginners were often given the task of writing obituaries. Whether the family or the funeral home offered the information, the assignment was mostly a question of putting the obit in AP style and perhaps making a call to get a key detail. You didn’t often get a sense of the writer’s style in an obit.
Margalit Fox of the NY Times may be an exception.
“Dr. Peter Praeger, a heart surgeon who saved a man’s life and as a result wound up owning a gefilte fish company — and who as a result of that wound up starting a successful natural-foods company — died on Sept. 22 in Hackensack, N.J. He was 65. …
“Though the story of Dr. Praeger’s company — born of two rabbinical prognostications, any number of hairpin turns of fate and the transformative realization that man cannot live by gefilte fish alone — reads like something out of Sholem Aleichem, it began, no less, on a Christmas Eve.”
Dr. Praeger helped to save the life of a man on Christmas Eve and over time developed a friendship with the man’s brother-in-law, Rubin Unger, the owner of a struggling gefilte fish company. The family rabbi made a prediction: “Any surgeon smart enough to save his congregant’s life would be smart enough to save his congregant’s brother-in-law’s gefilte fish company.
“Dr. Praeger demurred: he was, after all, a surgeon, not a fish maven. Mr. Ungar persisted. …
“Who, in the end, can fly in the face of rabbinical foreordination?” asks the obit writer.
“ ‘It was like The Godfather,’ Dr. Praeger told the magazine New Jersey Monthly in 2007. ‘They pulled me into it.’ ”
At his death, Dr. Praeger was as well-known for the food company that emerged from the gefilte fish as for his surgical prowess.
Photograph: Gefilte fish, which Dr. Praeger learned to like in time, http://chewonthatblog.com