LORAIN, Ohio (AP) — Shedding light on the unique life of a lost loved one and providing comfort to those in mourning has become the specialty of a Lorain man who is referred to by those who know him as The Eulogy Maker.
Joseph Conley, 54, has written and delivered 159 eulogies since 1986. His most recent was delivered March 21 at the funeral of his 100-year-old friend Myrtle Eppler of Vermilion.
“I just kind of fell into this,” he said. “I started doing it and then it was kind of expected.”
For nearly 23 years, Conley has served as a financial counseling specialist and cashier at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Lorain. He said he absolutely loves his job at Mercy and doesn’t have a background in writing, but in the early 1980s he began writing personalized poems for his friends and family for birthdays, anniversaries or special events.
“It was kind of a shoot off from that,” he said, adding that his first eulogy was just him saying a few words about a friend who had died and it snowballed from there.
Conley said writing eulogies comes very naturally. He said it takes him roughly an hour, uninterrupted, to put into words what the person meant to those that knew him or her. Each is about four pages and Conley said he tries to include scripture as well.
“People think their life may be mundane or not unique, but everybody has got something great about them and if you pay attention you’d notice it from a distance,” he said. “I think that’s the last kindness you can extend because you’re saying something kind and reflecting on their journey through life, what they did, how they did it and who they’ve touched.”
Conley said he has known all but two or three of the people he’s written eulogies for. One of his most difficult eulogies to prepare was for Christopher Mario Davieau, a 22-year-old Lorain man he didn’t know who died unexpectedly in September 2015. While serving as a Lay Servant for the Avon Methodist Church, Conley met Davieau’s family and learned about his life and accomplishments to formulate the eulogy.
“I never met him but I felt like I did from meeting his family,” Conley said. “I missed out because he was a good kid.”
After speaking at the funeral home, church or cemetery, Conley gives the family who has suffered the loss the hard copy of the eulogy. He said he sometimes places a copy in the casket as it’s very personal for him to create a eulogy for close friends, family and extended family.
Through his work in writing and delivering eulogies and becoming a Lay Servant, Conley has added a few more abilities to his list, including presiding over funerals and performing marriage ceremonies.
“People tell me I marry them and bury them because I do funerals and weddings,” he said with a laugh.
Conley has delivered three eulogies this year and is always somewhat “on call” to offer his services. He hasn’t performed any weddings yet in 2016, but has three coming up this year.
“I didn’t see this coming in my life,” he said with a smile. “It’s not easy being Joe, but I’m best suited for the job.”
Information from: The Morning Journal, http://www.morningjournal.com