Joseph Barish: The Life and Times of Jersey’s Legendary Obituary Writer

Joseph Barish may not be a name many people know but he was one of Jersey’s most beloved obituary writers of all time. His knack for capturing the essence of a person’s life and personality in just a few short paragraphs, all while injecting a healthy dose of humor, made his obituaries popular reading for many years. Here, we take a look back at the life and times of this legendary Jersey writer.


Before we dive into Joseph’s life, let’s take a moment to appreciate the art of obituary writing. It may seem like a morbid profession, but obituary writers are tasked with preserving the memories of those who have passed away. They often serve as the final word on a person’s life, offering insight into their accomplishments, their personality, and their legacy. And while some obituaries are dry and straightforward, others are crafted with care, attention to detail, and a touch of humor.

What is an Obituary Writer?

An obituary writer is a journalist or freelance writer who is tasked with writing obituaries for local or national newspapers. They are responsible for gathering information about the deceased person’s life, drafting a concise and engaging obituary, and submitting it to the publication in a timely manner. Obituary writers often work on tight deadlines and must be able to produce high-quality writing under pressure.

The Early Years

Joseph Barish was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1948. From a young age, he showed a love for writing and storytelling. He would often regale his family with tall tales of adventure and intrigue, using his vivid imagination to transport them to far-off lands and exotic locales.

Young Joseph’s Writing

Joseph’s parents quickly recognized his talent for writing and encouraged him to pursue his passion. They provided him with a steady supply of books, pencils, and notepads, and Joseph spent hours scribbling away in his makeshift writing desk.

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The Influence of Jersey

Growing up in Jersey had a profound influence on Joseph’s writing. He was fascinated by the people, the culture, and the unique dialect that defined this colorful state. He would often incorporate local slang and expressions into his writing, giving his stories an authentic and relatable feel.

Joseph’s First Real Writing

In high school, Joseph’s writing began to gain recognition. His short stories and essays were regularly featured in the school newspaper, and he was awarded several local writing awards. It was clear to everyone that Joseph had a gift for storytelling.

The Rise of the Obituary Writer

After graduating from college, Joseph began working as a journalist for a local newspaper. While he enjoyed reporting on breaking news stories, he found that his true passion lay in writing obituaries.

The Challenge of the Obituary

To Joseph, writing an obituary was like solving a puzzle. He had to piece together the deceased person’s life story, uncover their most significant accomplishments, and paint a detailed picture of who they were as a person. All of this had to be done in just a few hundred words.

The Humor Element

But Joseph wasn’t satisfied with just writing dry, straightforward obituaries. He wanted to inject some humor into his writing, to celebrate the lives of those who had passed away instead of just mourning their loss. And so, he began incorporating jokes, puns, and witty observations into his obituaries, creating a unique and engaging style that quickly caught on.

Joseph as a Local Legend

For many years, Joseph was the most popular obituary writer in Jersey. His colorful and humorous writing style endeared him to readers, who eagerly looked forward to his latest obituary. He became something of a local legend, with people recognizing him on the street and asking for his autograph.

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The Legacy of Joseph Barish

Joseph passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on. His writing touched the hearts of countless readers, and his influence can still be seen in the obituaries that are published today. His approach to writing obituaries was revolutionary, and it paved the way for a new generation of writers who approach the craft with creativity and humor.

The Impact of Joseph’s Writing

But Joseph’s impact goes beyond just obituary writing. He showed that even in death, we can celebrate the lives of those who have passed away, that there is humor and joy to be found in even the darkest of moments. He reminds us that writing is not just about conveying information, but about making a connection with the reader, about creating a lasting memory.

Quotes from Joseph

In one of his most famous quotes, Joseph said, “Obituary writing is not about mourning the dead, it’s about celebrating their lives.” And that’s exactly what he did throughout his career. His writing was a celebration of life, a tribute to the people who had touched our lives and left us with cherished memories.


In conclusion, Joseph Barish was a writer who changed the face of obituary writing in Jersey. He was a true original, and his legacy will continue to inspire writers for many years to come. Let us take a moment to remember Joseph and the incredible impact he had on the world of writing.

A Quick Table for Easy Reading

Topic Description
Introduction A brief overview of Joseph Barish and the art of obituary writing
The Early Years Joseph’s childhood and love of storytelling
Young Joseph’s Writing The encouragement Joseph received from his parents
The Influence of Jersey How growing up in Jersey shaped Joseph’s writing
Joseph’s First Real Writing Joseph’s success in high school
The Rise of the Obituary Writer How Joseph fell in love with writing obituaries
The Challenge of the Obituary The complexities of writing an obituary
The Humor Element Joseph’s unique writing style
Joseph as a Local Legend Joseph’s popularity in Jersey
The Legacy of Joseph Barish Joseph’s lasting impact on obituary writing
The Impact of Joseph’s Writing How Joseph’s writing touched readers
Quotes from Joseph Famous quotes from Joseph Barish
Conclusion A final tribute to Joseph’s life and legacy
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  • Foss, S. (2015). “Capturing a Person’s Life in the Obituary.” American Journalism Review 37(2): 14-16.
  • Smith, J. (2018). “The Art and Craft of Obituary Writing.” The New Yorker.
  • Vandermeer, P. (2014). “The Power of Obituary Writing.” Editor’s Choice 13(2): 20-22.