When a famous figure, a celebrity, dies there is, quite rightly, a great outpouring of sympathy for his family and lots of newspaper eulogies. The Internet ensures that folk around the world know within hours that they have passed away. But what happens when Mr or Mrs Unfamous dies?
There is a funeral – more frequently referred to nowadays as a celebration of their life. There may be a notice (paid for) in the local newspaper. Grief-stricken and harassed relatives have to phone around friends and colleagues of the deceased – assuming they know who they were. And twelve months later only the very closest of their family are likely to recall the anniversary of their death. The Times won’t publish an Obituary and in a couple of generations folk researching their family history will wonder who he or she was and what they were like.
On Saturday I learned of the death of a former colleague at Knowsley Borough Council, Ken Johnson. He died at the end of February but I wasn’t aware of it until meeting mutual acquaintances last Saturday. Ken held a very senior position within the Council but definitely, like most of us, ranked among the 'unfamous'.
Ken and I swapped Christmas cards and the occasional Facebook message and he is one of the Council officers I held in the highest regard. He was honest, skillful, personable, helpful, caring and did his job to the very best of his ability, notwithstanding long-term health issues about which he made no fuss. A man I am proud to have known. One could hardly ask for a better eulogy than that.
His first wife, Sue, died when his son, Matt, was quite young and more recently he became engaged and seemed blissfully happy. So my sympathies go especially to Alison and Matt but also to Ken himself that he should have missed out on a potentially wonderful future and that his name will hardly go down on record anywhere in a way that will capture what a special person he was. He may have been 'unfamous' but he was nevertheless one in a million.