ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — It’s not every day we talk about obituaries make news, but a local man’s unusual death notice has gone viral.
Walter Harris, 56, of Ross Township, died after a battle with cancer. According to his obituary in Thursday’s Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, “the location of his death is none if your business.”
KDKA’s Susan Koeppen: “This is not your ordinary obituary.”
Steve Barcley: “It’s not, and Walt did not want it to be that.”
Barcley, Walter’s friend of 38 years, says Walt was far from ordinary. And he wanted an obituary that matched his personality.
“He had come to believe that people, at least in the United States, were taking themselves and their lives too seriously,” said Barcley. “It wasn’t meant to be an object lesson to anybody, I don’t think. It was meant to say, ‘I, Walt Harris, am not taking my life too seriously,’ even in his most serious moment.”
So, Walt, along with Barcley and another friend, wrote lines like “Walt was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus rollin’ down Highway 41.” And, “His infectious personality led to a city-wide quarantine.”
The obit caught the eye of many, and it caught his family by surprise.
“Oh, that’s him,” says Cliff Harris, Walter’s brother. “I said that’s him. He nailed it.”
Cliff lives in Florida.
“It just resonated of him,” said Cliff. “It was his wit, his humor, how he carries himself. It was quite fantastic. It put a big smile on my face during a very hard time.”
The obit goes on to say Walt was a “watcher, not a doer.”
“He leaves behind a spacious, three-bedroom apartment, and is survived by his son, his mother, his former wife, three brothers and his favorite aunt.”
The part that says Walt loved to watch the Steelers is most definitely true, and Walt was loved by many.
“He was a guy who did things his way, the way he wanted to do, and he enjoyed it,” said Cliff. “Diehard sports fan, a caring man. I’d be remise if I didn’t say what a wonderful father he was and how much he loved his family.”
The obituary ends with “I’m Walt Harris and I approve this obituary.”
Walter’s friends say he had planned to use a picture of Brad Pitt with the obituary, but that didn’t make it into the paper.