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Writing an Obituary or Death Notice

Some local Weirton, WV families feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of writing an obituary. They worry that they’ll forget important facts and information, or that they won’t fully capture their loved one’s life. As part of the grieving process, it is very therapeutic when our families write the obituary themselves and provide a photo of their loved one. To assist, Steel & Wolfe Funeral Homes & Cremation Services has prepared the following obituary writing guide.

General Obituary & Death Notice Guidelines  

1. Include biographical information, as much as you have available and feel comfortable sharing (the more information you include, the easier it is for acquaintances to identify the deceased as someone they knew). Some items you may wish to include:

  • Full name of the deceased (including maiden name, nickname, or any other name by which your loved one might be identified)
  • Dates and locations of birth, marriage(s), and death
  • Cause of death
  • Surviving loved ones’ and deceased names
  • Schools attended and degrees earned
  • Military service
  • Place of employment and position held
  • Membership in organizations (for example, civic, fraternal, church)
  • Hobbies or special interests
  • Notable or important life events

2. If services are public, include full funeral service information: location, day, and time of visitation, memorial or funeral service, and burial. If services are private, indicate so (for example, "Burial will be private" or "Interment private," or "Private services will be held"). Understanding the difference between some of the terminology will help prepare your guest when they arrive. Below we have explained some of these terms for you:

  • Visitation - a time when friends and family members gather together with the body present in a casket; the casket is open or closed according to the family's wishes. This can be held in our funeral home or church.
  • Memorial / Memorial Gathering - a time when friends and family members gather with or without an urn present; a decision that is made by the family.
  • Funeral Service - is a service held to memorialize a deceased person with their body present in a casket at our Steubenville, Ohio funeral home or local church..
  • Funeral Mass - the Catholic funeral service is a mass, generally held in a local Catholic church the day after the vigil.
  • Memorial Service - is a service held to memorialize a deceased person with their body not present or when an urn is on display. If a burial occurs prior to the service for a loved one, the service is considered a Memorial Service.
  • Memorial Mass - A Catholic funeral mass held at church to memorialize a deceased person with their body not present or when a cremation urn is on display.

3. Consider listing one or more charities to which you’d like memorial donations made. If you would like memorial donations to be made, be sure to include the mailing address and/or the web address for the charity to make it easier for people to make donations.

4. If the family prefers monetary contributions rather than funeral flowers, include a phrase such as: "In lieu of flowers, please consider the needs of the family" or "In lieu of flowers, contributions suggested to the family," or "In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting financial assistance for the services." If you would like flowers but want to give people an option, please consider "Donations and memorial contributions may be made to."

5. Always check with the newspaper first. Some Weirton, WV area newspapers have specific style guidelines or restrictions on length, some only accept obituaries directly from funeral homes, and some out of town newspapers only publish obituaries written by newspaper staff members. Newspaper obituaries cost money. Even though the obituary for a newspaper may be limited, understand that the obituary for our website is unlimited.

6. Plan to publish the obituary in a newspaper at least 1-2 days prior to services so that friends and family can make arrangements to attend.

7. Please provide a photo and obituary for our website. As soon as you have it available, please email us an original photo (jpeg) and obituary (word.doc).

The key to a memorable obituary is in the details.

If you are in a position of writing an obituary, try to dig for the intimate details that will keep the person alive in memory: quirks, hobbies, favorite passions, oft-heard quotes, travels, food or unusual pursuits. It doesn’t matter if the person was a company president, an electrician, a cook or ballerina, everyone has a story to tell. But that story doesn’t come together by itself. Ask friends, children, parents, co-workers and spouses for details they recall and favor. How did the person look or dress? What was their daily routine? Where did they find most happiness? Be creative, look outside the box to find the personality traits and characteristics to recall.

Here are a few recent obituary excerpts that may get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Delores O’Brien Wise (1931-2019): “She was an excellent cook who embraced her Polish heritage and could make killer cabbage rolls and pierogi. She could even change a light bulb all by herself!… Her pool parties were legendary. It didn’t matter who you were, you could count on three things: Good food, good drink and getting thrown into the pool…. She traveled all over the globe. From smuggling in Poland, hallucinogenic elephant rides in Thailand to table dancing in Spain, there was never a dull moment traveling with her.” (Read Delores’s full obituary on
  2. Mary Stocks (1921-2015): ““She was a master cook in the kitchen. She believed in overcooking everything until it chewed like rubber so you would never get sick because all the germs would be nuked,” Stocks wrote in the obituary. “Freezing germs also worked, so by Friday our school sandwiches were hard and chewy, but totally germ-free.” (Read Mary’s full obituary on
  3. Aldona Zalnieriunas (1933-2019): “Aldona was clear-eyed about death, torn between leaving her children and their offspring (she was happiest with a well-stocked fridge and family crowded around her dining table) and joining the love of her life, Victor. They met at a wedding in the 1950s, danced all night and never parted until Victor died from cancer, stretching out his life as promised until the eve of their 55th wedding anniversary. They were a romantic, through-thick-and-thin couple, dancing to scratchy records, scrimping to pay the mortgage, cuddling on the sofa.” (Read Aldona’s full obituary on
  4. Peter Redfield Hoover (1939-2019): “He busted out of Harvard in 1958, preferring to study Appalachian string band music rather than chemistry. To support himself, he worked as a time-study man at a meatpacking plant in South Boston and recalled riding home after work on the T, with huge baloneys tucked under his arm, benefit of his job. Because he knew how they were made, he would never again eat a hotdog.” (Read Peter’s full obituary on
  5. Ashley Alexandra Katherine Allen (1992-2019): “Ashley’s doctor called after her passing and told us, ‘All people die, but not all people live.’ Ashley lived! She packed so much life into her twenty-seven years. She traveled, rode horses, chased her dreams, worked in a profession she loved, fell in love, mended a broken heart and still put one foot in front of the other battling what she knew from the start was an incurable cancer. She did so with grace, dignity, integrity, and courage.” (Read Ashley’s full obituary on

Try to remember specific instances where they made a difference in the lives of others, in their profession or field and/or in the community. Instead of just listing their achievements, tell a little story about some of them. Keep an eye out for moments that speak eloquently of their humanity, kindness, zest for life or even their cranky disposition—whatever fits. Did they take tango lessons or play poker in their eighties? Say so. Such information inspires people and helps them connect with the deceased. Before you sit down to write, take some time to think about what you want to say, and take notes as ideas come to you. Then get started.

Local Newspaper:  Weirton Daily Times, 114 Lee Ave., Weirton, WV 26062 | 304-748-0606

Let us help guide you

Contact Us

Main Street Location
3721 Main St
| Weirton, WV 26062
Tel: (304) 748-3721
| Fax: (304) 748-1206


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Penco Road Location
380 Penco Rd
| Weirton, WV 26062
Tel: (304) 723-5100
| Fax: (304) 748-1206


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You are welcome to call us any time of the day, any day of the week, for immediate assistance. Or, visit our funeral home in person at your convenience.

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