Spoofs & Satire

The Obit Laureate

The first installment of our occasional series in which we transform recent Times obituaries—a gong striker, a burger matriarch, a bagpipe virtuoso—into light verse.

Esther L. Snyder, 86; Burger Matriarch

“Burger Mistress” wasn’t what she’d always longed to be,
Having graduated with a zoological degree.
But something made her sour on a life exploring fauna
Choosing burger patties over the Galapagos Iguana.

Perhaps her coursework had her write an essay or a thesis
On the mayfly who is born, then mates, and rapidly deceases.
Maybe from that research Esther learned what it’s about:
This life affords us barely time for a little In-N-Out.


Rufus Harley, 70; Adapted Bagpipes to Jazz

Davis and Trane were hip fellows
Who could make horns and saxophones sing.
Harley had bladders and bellows
Which had rarely conspired to swing.

Trumpets and saxes had made them
Legends of music that’s true.
Before Rufus Harley had played ‘em
Jazz types thought bagpipes “Kind of Blew.”


Harold Ronk, 85; Barnum & Bailey’s Singing Ringmaster

The ringmaster much would have liked
To sing Wagner into his mike.
But under trapezes
And trained chimpanzeeses,
The “Ring Cycle” leads of
Siegmunds and Siegfriedses
Were all played by clowns riding bikes.


James A. Van Allen, 91; Detected Radiation Belts

When the Fantastic Four fell to earth
Ben Grimm had inflated in girth;
Sue Storm’s stunning looks went and came;
Brother Johnny erupted in flames;
And Reed Richards had turned into rubber.
All because James Van Allen discovered
Belts of actual space radiation
That in comics could cause such mutations
Which is why this professor called “Van”
Preferred his space missions unmanned.


Ken Richmond, 80, Gong Striker Familiar to Filmgoers

Ken Richmond rang a “golden gong”
For filmmaker J. Arthur Rank.
Each picture began with a marvelous dong
Even if the next two hours stank.


Yasuo Takei, 76, One of Japan’s Richest Men

The second-richest man
On the island of Japan
Lost a little bit of face
In a wiretapping case.
He was fined one million yen,
Which, frankly, in American
Is about what Michelle Kwan
Trades for a Hello Kitty thong.

But this man paid in pride,
Which on this Pacific side
Is a thing we’ve never treasured.
We decide instead to measure
An individual’s esteem
By her publicity machine.
And that is why a girl like Paris
Never needs to be embarrassed.