Naples Daily News reporter wins urn for best fake obit


The deaths were fake.

The reporters writing about them were both professional and students.

The idea for The Death Race contest came from a very creative regianal director for the Society of Professional Journalists; Michael Koretzky, SPJ Region 3 director.

This past Saturday, 16 college and pro reporters from South Florida, who had never written an obituary before, listened to advice about how to write one, then went to work on one of their own, by covering a mock memorial service with eulogies from fake friends and loved ones of the deceased.

urn awardKristine Gill, reporter at the Naples Daily News, won the contest and an engraved urn for best obit (for a fake person) on deadline.

“Michael Koretzky, the SPJ Region 3 director is one of the most creative educators I know,” says Jody Beck, director of Scripps Semester in Washington Program. “He also runs the “will work for food” weekend program for students who go to Florida and write about homelessness.”

You can read more about the contest here.

Gill's winning fake obit:

Cassie Morien: “Spastic and Squiggly”
By Kristine Gill

Kathleen Ross hated Cassie Morien the moment she laid eyes on her.

Tall, impeccably dressed and bubbly, Morien seemed a threat staff at Boca Raton Magazine her first day on the job. Ross resisted, but a month later Morien’s charm, her wit, her awkward mannerisms had won her over. ”You can’t not like her,” Ross, 25, said.

The two ate lunch together each day for two years since, taking turns swapping stories in a rush against the clock. ”The hour was never long enough to share everything,” Ross said.

obit picThat’s why friends and family of Cassandra Morien said her death has left them with a baffling void, a 6’1″ chasm usually occupied by a quirky, bursting force in heels.

“She just has a different kind of presence,’” her mother Julia Morien said. “She finds joy in everything.”

Morien, died Jan. 17 of the lung disease emphysema despite having smoked a cigarette just once in her short lifetime. The 26-year-old fashion and web editor at Boca Raton Magazine lived in Boynton Beach and is survived by her parents Julia and Dennis, her younger siblings Gillian and Trevor, and her boyfriend Angel Melendez.

A writer since the second grade, Morien loved journalism, Julia Morien said.

In fact she tweeted April 15 that “The notion that I will be spending the next 10 hours writing is both exciting and overwhelming. #ondeadline #lovemylife”.

Becoming an expert on something and sharing that knowledge thrilled her, Julia Morien said.

It was that way with music, especially indie and electronic, Melendez said.

Despite habit of awkward movements, Melendez called them “spastic and squiggly,” Morien wasn’t afraid to dance. She tweeted from the Miami Ultra Music Festival in March: “Miami, you are so insanely beautiful. I love every single second of this life. Ultra Music Festival (& all music!) is the reason I breathe.”

Her Twitter feed is riddled with the names of obscure bands, The Bloody Beetroots, Avicii and her favorite M83.

If you haven’t heard of those artists, don’t worry. That’s the way Morien would have liked it, Melendez said.

“I was everything she was not into: tall guys, writers, music know-it-alls. She liked to be the best,” Melendez said. The couple dated for a year during which Melendez enjoyed Morien’s baking, the love notes she left tucked in the pages of his books and her willingness to parting in sporting events with him despite her own lack of enthusiasm for the pastime. At 6’2″ tall, Melendez said he will miss his partner who stood with him at nearly eye level on most things. ”She said once our relationship was easy,” he recalled.

Funeral arrangements for Morien are pending, but will no doubt include all the bells and whistles she was famous for incorporating in her “balls-to-the-wall” approach to all things in life.

“She was a constant.  A constant good thing in my life,” he said. “It’s going to be incredibly different without her.”

All photos courtesy of