A Grave Undertaking

When the Sunday slab of newsprint hits the coffee table, do you leaf right to the obituaries? A Princeton-based independent publisher is hoping so. In fact, it is banking on attracting all the covert obituary fanatics out there.

When the Sunday slab of newsprint hits the coffee table, do you leaf right to the obituaries? A Princeton-based independent publisher is hoping so. In fact, it is banking on attracting all the covert obituary fanatics out there.

Obit, as the magazine is called, hits newsstands later this year. J. Robert Hillier and his wife, Barbara, the co-founders, are esteemed architects by day, but are also part owners of Town Topics, a weekly Princeton-area newspaper. They’ve got a hunch that this endeavor (losing money at the moment) has legs.

The idea came when Robert saw a woman in an airport overcome with emotion while reading an obituary of Bob Keeshan (TV’s Captain Kangaroo). He decided there was a demand for something like Obit, which will feature long-format obituaries as well as columns about longevity and politics and profiles of the best funerals. Readers will be able to contribute memories of those who have shaped their lives—family, friends, or even an elm tree in the backyard. Says Barbara, “We truly believe that we’re beginning a movement.”

Obitmag.org has 6,000 subscribers so far, the Hilliers say. They hope to reach a circulation of 30,000 when the glossy goes to print. “It’s a very heady topic—heavy even—but I think there’s an opportunity to put it in the right perspective,” says managing editor Krishna Andavolu. “It takes maybe a sentence or two to explain to people that it’s a magazine not about death, but about life. Once that keys in, people are intrigued and realize that there is inspiration to be found and lessons to be learned.”

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