This woman tells the stories of the dead
Published: November 16, 2011
Before starting her business, Stephanie spent years visiting her ailing brother, spends nights now visiting a sick sister for hours each evening, spent years comforting the grief-stricken in her family. That natural compassion is useful in her new job. "At that time in your life, when someone close to you dies, it's hard to think straight," she says. "I just say, 'Don't worry about it. I'll put it together.' That's my purpose in life. I take care of people."
Deborah Munro's husband died a few years ago after languishing a long while. "He had an illness, but I didn't know it had progressed as much as it did," Munro says, resigned. "But all of us got to go."
The new widow needed a write-up. "Of course I went straight to her," the 54-year-old says of Stephanie. The two have been friends since they were both 12 years old. "She is very sensitive. She's very kind and considerate and passionate. Her work gives that off as well."
That kind of feedback prompted Stephanie's husband, Lindberg Teamer, to urge her into taking her talent further.
"I can think of no company out there that's just focused on obituaries," says Lindberg, a 54-year-old accountant. "I said, 'You need to start doing that.' She had some reservations about that, but she's doing a great job and saving people a lot of money doing that."
He made fliers for her, let her print hundreds of obituaries on his work printers, lets her use his office number — 313-273-7921 — for her new business. But he's affectionately rankled at how little she asks her clients to pay. "She's charging them hardly nothing as it is, and I'm like, 'Baby you've got expenses. You got to at least cover expenses.' If she could she would do the obituaries for free. She's got a very soft heart for that."
Obituaries usually average a few hundred dollars at funeral homes, and she charges barely a third of that. "Talk to my husband about that. He says, 'You can't charge them that. That doesn't even pay for the ink.' I said, 'Well, they can't afford it.' It's nothing that I make money off of. It's just a passion."
Sometimes she stays up all night writing them, she says, waiting for the right words to come. She takes her new vocation seriously, because when they're done right, an obituary can bring some dignity and closure to someone's passing, no matter how small their funeral might be, even if there's no funeral at all.
"It makes me feel good, like I helped somebody," she says. "I couldn't even imagine someone dying and not having one. I think it's so sad not to have an obituary. That's the last word on your life."
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