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The Des Moines Register published an obituary this week of one of its former journalists, who actually wrote his own tribute before his passing. The missive quickly went viral.
“Ken Fuson, born June 23, 1956, died Jan. 3, 2020 in at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, of liver cirrhosis, and is stunned to learn that the world is somehow able to go on without him,” writer Ken Fuson began his obituary.
Fuson noted that he landed his “dream job” as a reporter at the Register in 1981 and how in 1996, “Ken took the principled stand of leaving the Register because The Sun in Baltimore offered him more money.” Three years later, though, “having blown most of that money at Pimlico Race Track, he returned to the Register, where he remained until 2008.”
He listed several awards he had received throughout his career, including the Ernie Pyle Award, the ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, and the National Headliner Award.
“No, he didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but he’s dead now, so get off his back,” Fuson quipped.
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The former Register journalist went on to work at the Simpson College marketing department from 2011 to 2018, but he warned readers of an “important lesson: Always have a Plan B.”
“He was diagnosed with liver disease at the beginning of 2019, which is pretty ironic given how little he drank. Eat your fruits and vegetables, kids,” Fuson advised young readers.
Fuson is survived by his two sons, Jesse and Max, as well as his stepson Jared Reese, and he said the trio brought him “unsurpassed joy” and “was (and is) extraordinarily proud to be their father.”
But the scribe didn’t gloss over the more troubling parts of his life. He went into detail about his long struggle with gambling addiction.
“For most of his life, Ken suffered from a compulsive gambling addiction that nearly destroyed him. But his church friends, and the loving people at Gamblers Anonymous, never gave up on him. Ken last placed a bet on Sept. 5, 2009. He died clean,” Fuson wrote. “He hopes that anyone who needs help will seek it, which is hard, and accept it, which is even harder. Miracles abound. Ken’s pastor says God can work miracles for you and through you.”
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The reporter also shared the religious journey he had taken as an adult.
“Skepticism may be cool, and for too many years Ken embraced it, but it was faith in Jesus Christ that transformed his life. That was the one thing he never regretted. It changed everything,” Fuson continued. “For many years Ken was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Indianola and sang in the choir, which was a neat trick considering he couldn’t read a note of music. The choir members will never know how much they helped him. He then joined Lutheran Church of Hope. If you want to know what God’s love feels like, just walk in those doors.”
Fuson offered a sincere apology to those he “owes money” to and acknowledged his “many character flaws” but that he “liked to think that he had a good sense of humor and a deep compassion for others.”
He added, “He prided himself on letting other drivers cut in line. He would give you the shirt off his back, even with the ever-present food stain. Thank goodness nobody asked. It wouldn’t have been pretty. He also was a master Jumbles solver.”
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Fuson wrapped up his obituary by urging mourners to “wear black armbands and wail in public during a one-year grieving period” and that “if that doesn’t work, how about donating a book to the public libraries in Granger or Indianola?”
“Yes, this obituary is probably too long. Ken always wrote too long. God is good. Embrace every moment, even the bad ones. See you in heaven. Ken promises to let you cut in line,” Fuson concluded.
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