NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso,' and her obit went viral


A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday - those are the first words of the now iconic obituary for Renay Mandel Corren, who died on December 11. Her son penned the obit about her bawdy, rowdy life, writing that, quote, "a more disrespectful trash-reading, talking and watching woman in North Carolina, Florida or Texas was not to be found." That colorful obit in The Fayetteville Observer has now gone viral, attracting attention all over the world. And we are now joined by the author, her son, Andy Corren. Thank you for being here, and I'm sorry about your mom.

ANDY CORREN: Thank you so much for having both me and the memory of Renay Corren on your show. We're so thrilled to be here.

DETROW: I imagine there's a few people in America who have not read this obit yet. What else should they know about your mom if they haven't read it yet?

CORREN: Well, my mom, like, you know, a lot of people in this country, fancied herself an American original, and that meant doing things her way. And they should know that Renay Corren, from the jump, did it her way all the way to the end.

DETROW: Can you read a little bit of the obituary for us? I mean, we were just joking beforehand that it's hard to find one or two sentences because I would love to just have you read the whole thing. But if we have to pick, what's one part of it that jumps out to you?

CORREN: (Reading) There will be much mourning in the many glamorous locales she went bankrupt in - McKeesport, Pa., Renay's birthplace and where she first fell in love with ham and atheism; Fayetteville and Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Renay's dreams, credit rating and marriage are all buried; and, of course, Miami, Fla., where Renay's parents, uncles, aunts and eternal hopes of all Miami Dolphins fans everywhere are all buried pretty deep. Renay was preceded in death by Don Shula.

DETROW: Was there just no other choice for you but to write the obit in this colorful way when you sat down and thought about how to remember her? Or did you go back and forth saying, should I keep it traditional or should I just let her full character fly in this obituary?

CORREN: No, no, no, no, no. Traditional was never going to work for Renay Corren. A regular funeral was financially out of the question. Her family was so far-flung by now, so many friends everywhere, a eulogy of this size and color and expense was the only way to accurately and broadly enough encompass all of the color that she wrapped herself with for 84 years on this Earth.

DETROW: I want to ask what the reaction of the rest of your family was. Did you give them all a heads up that this was coming? Or did they just pick up the paper and go, oh, all right?

CORREN: My brothers are all I have left, so they know me, and they know who I am, and they know what my relationship with my mother was like and what shape it took. And it took the shape often of words and books and stories, and they knew it wasn't going to be traditional.

DETROW: For those of us who didn't get the chance to meet and know your mom, what's something from her life that we can learn from, that we can take away from?

CORREN: Well, a good lesson would be to take your overdue bills and use them to roll joints on.

DETROW: (Laughter).

CORREN: That's a good use of overdue bills.

DETROW: (Laughter).

CORREN: That's a good takeaway.

DETROW: You said there's going to be - I think you called it a very disrespectful gathering...

CORREN: Oh, yeah.

DETROW: ...Early next spring. Tell me about it.

CORREN: We think the queen of the dirtbags deserves a proper, fitting sendoff in the place that she ruled and really loved, which is B&B Lanes in Fayetteville, N.C. And so I'm going to make the journey back with my brothers and friends and apparently about 17 million other people on Twitter. And we're going to celebrate my mom and have a little gonzo farewell for her on her 85th birthday, which is May 10.

DETROW: Sounds like it's going to be a great time. Andy Corren, author of just a beautiful, wonderful, joy-inducing obituary for his mother, Renay Mandel Corren, who died on December 11. Andy, thank you for sharing your mom with us this morning.

CORREN: We are so, so honored to be here and to share her story with all of you. Thank you for embracing my mommy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.