Actor James Rebhorn Wrote His Own Obituary


Who is James Rebhorn?

If you’re like me, sometimes character actors’ names don’t bring their faces to mind, but a picture, and you start trying to remember exactly what movies (both TV and theatre) where you’ve seen them.

I was perusing pictures and write-ups of celebs who died in 2014 when I ran across Jim as he liked to refer to himself. Who can forget him as the government auto expert who almost convicted Vinny’s cousin and his friend, that is until Marisa Tomei testified with her mechanic’s background, especially the traction bit on the cars in question? “My Cousin Vinny” was also the movie where previous Munster Fred Gwynne pulled off some impeccable comedic timing as the judge.

Jim Rebhorn had melanoma for a number of years. As a person of fair complexion, I commend him for battling as long as he could. Many melanomas can be curtailed if you catch them early on, which my dermatologist and I have always tried to do, but they are devious devils and don’t always play by the rules, developing an innocent and non-dangerous attitude at times until the spread or metastasis has taken place.

As to the obit, you know the most about yourself. All the good times you’ve had. All the briar patches you’ve been through. All those you should be thankful to, including those you are related to, and those you called friends. There might even be an acquaintance or two who momentarily made an appearance in your life, and merits a slight mention.

With it being your last notation on earth, I would suggest you stay away from nitpicking, like I have never forgotten the time Sam insulted me, or my mother always thought I liked sweet potato pie, and I hated it.

Treat the obit as though you are standing at the Pearly Gates, and you must read it as the last requirement for the gates to swing open and admit you. There is probably no need to magnify it with saintly words, but I’d say some of good Southern dialect wouldn’t hurt.

A person writing their own obit might not want to include their long string of legit credits they have accumulated over the years for fear of sounding egotistical. As a word practitioner, I can assure you it could be done in a tasteful manner, even coming from your own hand. There would no doubt still be some who claimed you exited this earth in a triple starched shirt.

I think what people would appreciate most is what meant the most to you. Chances are all those diplomas hanging on your office wall, and academic or business achievements don’t really say much about the person you were. What matters is did you mean anything to anyone while you occupied your assigned vicinity?

Lewis Grizzard was the word master when it came to taking simple situations, and showing how important they are to life. Chances are your greatest accomplishments didn’t make the headlines or have much impact on the people outside of your space, but they were very important to those of consequence in your life.

Jim Rebhorn did that very well. I never really stopped to think about Jim Rebhorn that much. He was only plying his trade. But in reading his obit I find he did indeed value the most the people who meant the most to him.

You can read the obituary here. It was published on the website of his church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Of Jersey City, N.J.

Jim, I didn’t know you, but I wish I had.

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