How to Write the Names of Deceased Persons?

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How To Write the Names
of Deceased Persons

Blog of Questions & Answers

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020

How To List a Deceased Hostess on an Invitation?        
How To List a Deceased Person in a List?      
How Do I Include The Fact The Person is Deceased?

How To Write the Name of a Deceased Person
       Who Had One or More Titles/Ranks During His/Her Life?       

How To Write a Name on a Posthumously Presented Certificate?
How To Write the Name of a Couple
      When One is Deceased?      

Are "Mr./Mrs." Used With The Name of a Deceased Person?
How To Refer to a Deceased Employer on my Resume?       
How To Refer to a Deceased Military Officer?       
When to Refer to a Deceased Person as "The Late"

How to Include a Deceased Person in a List?
       We have a committee celebrating our 100th birthday. Unfortunately, one of our committee members passed away this year but we would still like to list him in the program.  He was a judge.
        How do we properly list his name?
                The Honorable John Smith, deceased (seems harsh)
                The Late Honorable John Smith (seems like he's tardy)
                The Honorable John Smith *
                        * deceased

        -- E. H. L. 

        How do I reference a deceased Pastor and founder of a church? Should it read...
                   ABC Church
                   The Late John Smith, Founder

        --  A.M. 

       At our local nonprofit a deceased gentleman was named an honorary member years ago because of a significant gift he made. Should we take his name off the Honorary Members List, or include his name as John Smith (Deceased)?  Should a person remain an honorary member forever?
       -- L.B.

Dear EHL, AM & LB:
       Consider listing their names with the years of their life after their name:
              John Smith (1935-2011)
              John Smith (1935-2011), Founder

        If you are aiming for a timeless form, the span of years accomplishes that.
       Sometimes an asterisk
* (cross or Star of David) is put next to the name and * Deceased is put at the bottom of the page as a footnote.  Deceased is of course correct, but can be a bit legal sounding.
      Using the late works best in text, such as when their death is recent, and someone is participating in their place, as in John Smith will be officiating in place of the late James Doe.

      The Honorable is used for addressing the living.
        L.B.: Regarding whether or not someone should remain an honorary member forever –– organizations make living politicians and local high-profile members of the community Honorary Members. Typically they don't pay dues, but the organization wants to include them on their public materials. It's a little less connected than being on the board of directors, but is shows a relationship. Maybe you need a new category? Important deceased donors and key organizational officials are frequently moved to another category: Founders. Typically in a Founders Listings, whether the person is alive or dead is not mentioned. You see this sort of list at museums posted prominently in the lobby or even carved in stone on a wall.

         -- Robert Hickey

When to Refer to a Deceased Person as "The Late"?
    In writing the history of our organization should we refer to the founder, now deceased, as the late John Smith?
     --- Darla Snyder

Ms. Snyder:
      Usually "the late" precedes a name of someone who just died ... to clarify he or she would have participated, but died and someone else participated in their place. "John Smith, the bride's uncle, gave her away at the wedding in place of her father the late Thomas Smith."
    In a "history" I suggest you use a timeless style that will be accurate today and in 100 years when all of the organization's founders will be
the late. So, just refer to everyone as (first + surname).
f you feel you must include more about their lifespans you could list founders and board members elsewhere in the document with the appropriate years --  (1948-1999) -or- (1955 -       ) -- after their names.
            -- Robert Hickey

Do I Include a Deceased Member of My Family
When Asked to List All the Members of My Family?

      I need your help.  My son Ben recently passed at 24 years-of-age after a brief, but valiant, struggle with cancer. Today I have to fill out an application for a directorship position for which I have been nominated. The second question on the form is - Family. So, how do I list Ben?
      Many people who will read this will know me but will not know about Sam but I just cannot leave him out.....what do I do? I've asked my husband and daughter, Stephen and Sarah, but they don't know what to do either.

      -- Grateful if you would think about this

     I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to deal with this.
     How you fill in the form may influence the actions of others who read it -- and will be what you decide is pertinent information for this group.
     Listing Stephen, Ben, and Kate will have someone eventually come up to you and ask about each of them. However they may not know what they are asking.  There have been times I've asked a question & I wished I had known enough not to ask the question ... or at least knew what I was asking.
     Listing only Stephen and Sarah --  puts the focus on now. It makes sense in the same way an expectant mother wouldn't list her to-be-born baby -- she lists just today's information.
     The editorial style guides suggest if you include Ben it would be appropriate to put (deceased) after his name.  But that brings me back to your decision of what is relevant to this particular group, what is pertinent to the situation, what you want them to know, and what they need to know. 

            -- Robert Hickey

How to Include a Deceased Husband With
The Living Family Member's Names?

      A "Special Tribute Book", is being put together to commemorate our Rabbi's 25th Anniversary.  I have been requested to submit, in writing, how I would like my contribution to be listed under "Name/Family Names".  I would like to include my deceased husband's name, as well as my first name, and include the names of our children.
     Would you assist me with proper wording?  For example, Mrs. Robert G. Green, (Pearl), and adult children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca.
     My husband died just over one year ago.  We were married fifty six years ago, in this temple.
     Please send a speedy reply, if possible.

           -- Pearl

Dear Pearl:
     I'm not crazy about "her adult children" ... and I think you should include your name and your husband's name. I've seen Mrs. Robert G. Green (Pearl) used here and there, but I think it's awkward.
     How about: Pearl B. Green with her children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca in memory of Robert G. Green.
     In identifying them as "her chlidren" and everyone will know, or be able to figure out, you are also Mrs. Robert G. Green.
     What do you think?

      -- Robert Hickey

     I'm going to go with your suggestion: Pearl B. Green with her children Michael, Russell, Edward, and Rebecca in memory of Robert G. Green.
     I read the exact wording to our son, Michael, and asked him if it sounded right to him, or needed to be rephrased?  His said, "Mom, I think it is great!"  That's all I needed to hear.  He's been a blessing to me, from the moment his Dad brought him into my life, fifty-seven years ago! 
    Thank you, again. I wish you well.  You have been most helpful.

           -- Pearl

How to Write the Name of a Deceased Person
On a Certificate of Recognition?

       Our parish is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. We are giving Certificates of Recognition to honor our Founding Parishioners.  My question is how to list a couple when one person is deceased?  The committee recommends putting the living person’s name first, following by the deceased spouse.
        If the husband is deceased: Mary & Joseph Smith
                If the wife is deceased: Joseph & Mary Smith
       After reading your online information under “Deceased,” I don’t think this is correct.
       Should it be:
              Mary & the late Joseph Smith (if the husband is deceased)
              The late Mary & Joseph Smith (if the husband is deceased)
       Or can it be:
              Mary & Joseph (cross) Smith (if the husband is deceased);

       Mary (cross) & Joseph Smith (if the wife is deceased).
       It is common in our Church to designate someone is deceased by placing a small cross after their name.
              -- Powell Dean

Dear Mr. Dean:
The committee's suggested style is something I have never heard of, and don't think makes much sense.
       If you are honoring the founding parishioners -- I would list their names without reference to whether the are alive or dead: they were alive when they were founding to the parish!

              Thomas James Smith and Mary Wilson Smith
       Mary and Thomas Smith

      I question why it's necessary to note who is living and who is dead -- how is this pertinent? Does the committee want historians to be able to look back and know who was alive at the 50th Anniversary Celebration?
       -- Robert Hickey

How to List a Deceased Person in a Program?
I am creating a program for an event which includes a song by Cathy Smith, who passed away a few years ago. I am considering listing this as:
                  Song Title XYZ ............ the Late Cathy Smith
        Is this the right style? Or should I use an asterisk to reference her being deceased?
         -- Julie

Dear Julie,
No, if you are simply listing the name of a work, simple write:
                Song Title XYZ ............ Cathy Smith
        It is not necessary to note she is dead. E.g, in programs listing works by Mozart or Brahms -- it is not noted they are deceased.
        If you were to have a biographical text of authors somewhere in the program, you could include the span of years she lived -- Cathy Smith (1932-2010) -- if you thought it was important that the readers have this information.
       -- Robert Hickey

Is Mr. Used With The Name of a Deceased Man? 
        My mother taught me that when a man is deceased, one should not refer to him as “Mr.”  I never asked her about whether a deceased woman should not be referred to as “Mrs.,” but my question refers to that as well. Do you know of such a rule?
                -- Sue Holton

Dear Ms. Holton:
        I have not heard of this as a rule, and I had not thought about it .... but it is true.
        "Mr." "Miss"  "Mrs."  "Ms." are honorifics and are used by others in direct address to a person. The honorifics are attached to the name as a courtesy to the person ... and to define them in some way ... as a man, woman .... or with women to define their marital status.  They are used in conversation, on an envelope, on letter's address block or salutation, or on a place card.
        But, if a person is deceased, you aren't addressing them in any of those circumstances.
        The same is true with courtesy titles .... The Honorable or His/Her Excellency ... are not used with deceased elected officials names or with deceased diplomats.
        Thanks for this question!
                -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Name of a Person Who
Had One or More Titles During His/Her Life?

        How do you write the name of a deceased person who had a title?  What about a person who ahd  multiple titles?
        -- J. K. H. 

Dear J.K.H.:
      Deceased people are listed simply by name, typically the form of their name they had when they died -- without a courtesy title, honorific, ranks or post nominal. 
     Other forms of a deceased person's name -- which they might have used at one time or another during their life: Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Dr.; Excellency, Honorable or Reverend; Senator, Judge, Admiral, General, Captain, or Commissioner; and B.A., M.A. or Ph.D. -- might be mentioned in the text of a biography. But the text would be focusing on their actions as office holders -- rather than choosing one version of their name from a particular time in their life.

      -- Robert Hickey

How to Refer to a Deceased Employer on a Resume?    
   How do I refer to my deceased employer, a U.S. Senator, on my resume?
     -- Beth Acorn

Dear Ms. Acorn,
    I am not sure why it's necessary to mention that your former employer is deceased on your resume. Seems odd, but, spans of the years of life are included sometimes:
John Tower, United States Senator for Texas (1925-1991)
     But I think you should leave out that he is deceased: On your resume it only matters that you are still alive!
         -- Robert Hickey

How Do I List a Deceased Hostess on an Invitation?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I have a quick question that I am hoping you might be able to answer. A baby shower was to be hosted by two individuals. Regretfully, one of the individuals passed away about a week ago. The family asks that the deceased still be listed as hostess on the invitation. How would that be worded?
             Posthumously Caroline Giles
            The Late Caroline Giles
     Please advise
         --- Helen Carley

Dear Ms. Carley:
   Invitations are issued by host who will attend an event. What you should do is decide who will host the event now. THEN the host would open the event with a welcome toast and loving remembrance ... such as ... I cannot welcome you today without saying that as
we gather to celebrate of the joyous start of a new life -- we also celebrate a another life well lived -- that of Caroline Giles. Caroline an I were to jointly host this event and nothing would have brought her more joy than to see this wonderful gathering of friends and family ..... etc.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Names of Deceased
Military Personnel?

    What is the correct written form for the name of a deceased retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel?
             -- James Costello

Dear Mr. Costello,
      In this case you are not addressing a person ... since he or she is deceased.
      Thus the rules of 'how to address' don't apply.
      I don't know anything about the context of where you are writing this name ... but ... here is a precedent: when the US military writes the name of a deceased person on a tombstone they write their name and then list the rank held and branch of service after their name. 
     The deceased don't hold ranks anymore (those holding a rank have their rank before their name) and they are not correctly identified as being in the retired service.
     So this would suggest to list their name, followed by the rank they achieved and then the branch of service in which the person served -- not as part of his or her name.

          -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Name on a Posthumous Certificate?
       How would I address a Certificate of Appreciation given to someone who has died?  Do I address it as "The Late John Smith" or do I address it as "In memory of John Smith"?  Please help.  Thanks.

    -- Sue in Essex County

Dear Sue:
If you are presenting it to his family... they likely have other framed diplomas and certificates with his name on them.  I would not refer the fact that he is dead … just put his name on the certificate. Write something like....

In Appreciation of
John Smith

For Exemplary Service to the Citizens of Essex County

The Twenty Third Day of June, Two Thousand Ten

Robert Thompson, Mayor

     If the certificate is dated ... historians will figure out that it was presented posthumously.
         -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.

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Honor & Respect is dedicated to Dorothea Johnson, Founder of The Protocol School of Washington®