Famous last words

Researching last month's column for the last words of our presidents uncovered numerous final thoughts by less important people which should be shared. Many are classic gallows humor, like the words of George Appel as he was being strapped into New York's electric chair in 1928. Addressing the witnesses, he said: "Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."

James French was executed by the electric chair in Oklahoma in 1966. He gave newspapermen covering the event this suggestion. "How about this headline for tomorrow's paper?" "FRENCH FRIES."

James Rogers was executed by a firing squad in l960. He was asked the traditional question, do you have any final requests — "Why yes. A bullet proof vest," Rogers quipped.

Neville Heath was hanged. His last request was for a shot of whiskey. When the warden approved, he quickly amended it. " Make that a double," he said.

Thomas de Mahay, Marquis de Favras, was a victim of the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution. He was handed his official death notification as he walked to the guillotine. He read it and handed it back. "I see you have made three spelling mistakes," he explained.

Ryumin Bestuzhev was an unsuccessful revolutionary in Tzarist Russia. When he was hanged, the rope broke. "Nothing succeeds with me. Even here I meet with disappointment." They found a new rope.

The father of poet Kenneth Rexroth died of natural causes. His son obeyed his father's last request, to tell the public he had died of "fast women, slow horses, crooked cards and straight whiskey."

Ramon Narvaez was a tough, unrepentant Spanish General. On his deathbed, a priest asked him if he had forgiven his enemies? "I don't have to forgive my enemies. I have had them all shot," the old soldier snorted.

Mark Twain died in 1910. Some time earlier the Associated Press had reported his death. Twain sent AP a telegram. "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

British writer Rudyard Kipling suffered the same indignity. He read the news of his passing in a magazine. Kipling wrote them a letter. "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."

Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher, refused the Last Rites on his deathbed. The priest asked him to at least repudiate the devil. "Is this a good time to be making enemies?" Voltaire asked. He was denied a Christian burial for refusing.

Irish poet John Curran probably died of tuberculosis. One morning, His doctor commented that he was coughing "with more difficulty." He answered. "That is surprising since I have been practicing all night."

John Spenkelink died in Florida's electric chair in 1979. He believed he was found guilty because he could not afford an expensive lawyer. "Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment," was his definition.

Before he died in California's gas chamber, Robert Harris composed a short poem. "You can be a king or a street sweeper; But everybody dances with the Grim Reaper."

Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick was one of the best Corps Commanders in the Union Army. His men begged him to take cover but he refused. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." A second later he was dead, shot under the left eye by a Confederate sharpshooter a mile away.

Prime Minister Clemenceau had twice seen his homeland invaded and occupied by Germans. He requested his body be buried standing up, facing Germany.

The strangest death was that of a l7th Century French General, Count Valavoir. Returning to camp after curfew, he was challenged by a sentry. Who goes there? "Valavoir." The sentry heard "va le voir (go see him)." Thinking the intruder was a spy, he shot the general.

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