New York Times reporter Mel Gussow died in 2005 after a battle with cancer. The Times ran his Elizabeth Taylor obituary today along with this note: "Mel Gussow, the principal writer of this article, died in 2005. William and William Grimes contributed updated reporting."
It's common for newspapers to prepare obituaries about famous people before their death, and it isn't unheard of for the author of an obituary to die first. "Oftentimes those obits just sit around for years and years and sometimes the people who wrote them are gone before the celebrity. It's one of the tricky things about writing advance obituaries," Alana Baranick, the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and the author of "Life on the Death Beat: a Handbook for Obituary Writers," told AOL News by phone.
Baranick says this kind of thing has happened before. In 2009, Gayle Ronan Sims, a friend of Baranick's and a reporter at the Inquirer, wrote an advance obituary of famed TV personality Ed McMahon. Then, Sims died after a lung transplant two months before the death of McMahon himself. "Her time came first," Baranick said.
Gussow, of course, could not have predicted Taylor would outlive him by six years. But he did, however, note that Taylor -- who once told Vanity Fair she had been pronounced dead four times and had read a number of obituaries about her life -- was a survivor.
"During a lifetime of emotional and physical setbacks, life-threatening illnesses and accidents, and several near-death experiences, Ms. Taylor was a survivor," Gussow wrote, sometime before her death and his own.