Jane Utecht

For some morbid and unexplainable reason, articles on death have been catching my attention lately.

It started with this story about a Nebraska police officer who lost his leg in the line of duty. They buried his leg; years later the rest of him joined the leg.  

This week another Nebraska gentleman died. Instead of being buried in pieces, his request was to have his remains to be blasted out of a cannon. Jim Potter, state historian, archivist, and editor, actually owned cannons, and according to this World-Herald article his cremains will be shot from one of those.

After reading this I started looking for strange burial requests, to see how unusual they could be.

In the same vein as Potter’s, the TV writer/producer Gene Roddenberry has had some of his ashes shot into space; more are set to go this year, along with the remains of “Scotty” actor James Doohan.

Others wanted to stay earthbound. The gentleman who invented the Pringles can (Fredric Baur) really did have part of his remains buried in one his packaging inventions. And Mark Gruenwald, an editor at Marvel Comics, had his ashes mixed in with the ink for a special run of Marvel comics.

Instead of being preserved for all eternity through his works, Virgil, the ancient Roman poet, had one poem that wasn’t finished, and he wanted it destroyed upon his death. His friends stopped the Aeneid from being burned. 

Napoleon’s last wish was that after death his hair be divided up among his friends. Analysis of those hair samples in later years showed high levels of arsenic, a possible treatment for his stomach cancer.

More sentimental is entertainer Jack Benny’s last request in his will. He directed that after his death, one long-stemmed rose was to be delivered to his wife every day as long as she lived.

I don’t know if Lake County Commission Chairman Scott Pedersen left any unusual requests after his passing on Sunday. Instead, people attending this week’s services will likely remember how he lived.

I only covered County Commission for three of his eight years on the board, but that was enough to hear him offer advice after discussions, which were sometimes heated. “Remember the Golden Rule,” he would say, to treat others as you would want to be treated.

While he may not be going out with a literal “bang,” the words he lived by should leave a powerful legacy.


Jane Utecht was born and raised in Iowa but has lived in South Dakota for over 25 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Iowa State University, her M.S. in journalism from South Dakota State University.

Utecht has experience working at weekly and daily newspapers and enjoys telling the stories of everyday people.

She is also an amateur musician, and taught piano for over 20 years.

In this blog, Jane will share her thoughts, sometimes on education issues, sometimes on general lessons of life.