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'She really just wanted to live long enough to see Donald Trump voted out.' Connecticut obituaries get political in hyperpartisan era

By Daniela Altimari, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Health & Fitness

HARTFORD, Conn. — Louise "Stephanie" Evans lived a full life, raising three children, attending church and indulging in her love of painting, crafting and antiquing.

But when she died at 93 following a stroke, she had — according to her death notice — one regret: "She really just wanted to live long enough to see Donald Trump voted out of office."

While the dead can't vote, they can make a final plea to the living. And in this heated election season, obituaries have become a forum for partisan messages and a way for families to honor the political wishes of their loved ones.

"As Dorothy — a fierce critic of Trump to the end and a loving Christian — wished, we ask that, in lieu of flowers, those interested consider donating money or their time to the charity or good work of their choosing" read the death notice for Dorothy Blume, an 85-year-old West Hartford woman who died of ovarian cancer in June.

A death notice for Patricia Gagne published in The Bristol Press in August notes that she died "a day after she had celebrated Joe Biden's acceptance speech as the Democratic nominee for President." Her sons and grandchildren will hold a memorial for her "after light and decency enter the White House and COVID-19 is vanquished — just as Patty would have wanted."

When Vivian Kania of Granby, a retired teacher and school counselor, a tennis player and an avid UConn women's basketball fan, died this summer, "she had fifteen pages remaining of Mary L. Trump's 'Too Much and Never Enough,' " according to her obituary. "Vivian's dream was that she would live to see the first woman elected president in her lifetime."

 

In Connecticut, anti-Trump messages are far more common than those backing the president, according to a search on Legacy.com, which collects obituaries published in newspapers across the country. But at least one family noted their loved one's support of Trump in his death notice.

James J. Cifarelli Sr., an 88-year-old Army veteran from East Haven, enjoyed trips to the casino, hunting and fishing and was immensely proud of his garden. "He was a true patriot, American proud, and hoped to live to see Trump re-elected," states his obituary published in August.

Cifarelli's daughter, Rae Kaika, said the message reflects her father's beliefs. "He was a strong Republican," she said.

In our hyperpartisan era, the politicization of death notices isn't surprising, said Janice Hume, a University of Georgia journalism professor and author of "Obituaries in American Culture."

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