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After viral Minnesota obituary fallout, local newspapers reveal the screening process behind them

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Special to Forum Communications2 / 2

So, many of us share our bucket list or end of life wishes with family. Now, you might want to talk with them about your obituary.

The Redwood Falls Gazette newspaper this week published an obit that a family wrote about their mother.

It was not kind, and now it has gone viral, appearing on social media and newspapers worldwide.

According to her children, Kathleen Dehmlow abandoned them in 1962.

The daughter and son, writing in a Redwood Falls newspaper obituary for Kathleen, said their mother became pregnant with her husband's brother, leaving grandparents to raise the two, Gina and Jay, who ended the obit. With "she will not be missed..this world is a better place without her."

Social media exploded with comments.

Some people calling the children spiteful, who were airing family dirty laundry, trying to settle an old score.

At the West Central Tribune and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers, a centralized team goes through and edits obituaries daily for all the company's newspapers in the upper midwest.

That means more than a hundred a day.

And while newspapers take great care in not changing much in an obit, there are community standards that have to be met, and things are changing, it used to be that funeral homes wrote most of the obituaries, now families are writing them.

"They [obits] come to a central team and there is someone on that team that takes a look. We edit with a very light hand, we truly believe the philosophy that this is a family's memorial, this is how they tributize their loved one and we don't want to be telling them how to do that," said Devlyn Brooks, Forum Communication's Obits and Standards editor.

Cases are rare, but submitted obits with Profane nicknames or inflammatory, inappropriate narratives will get flagged.

"I don't want to throw another newspaper under the bus, they had reasons for their decision. Our process may be a little bit different, but our guiding process is, at the end of the day, does this keep the dignity of the deceased intact, because they don't get to speak for themselves any longer. And then at the end of the day, after that, what does good does this do the community," said Brooks.

Many families view the obituary as that last chance to honor someone they love.

In the case of Kathleen Dehmlow, millions are reading about her, from the perspective of just two, who have nothing but bitter, dark things to say.

Tuesday afternoon, the story took another twist, when the Redwood Falls Gazette said on Twitter that most of the staff, including the editor, protested running the obit, but were overruled.

WDAY-TV in Fargo tried to reach out to the children of Dehmlow, but they could not be found.

But another relative said today, the obit is true, but, in his words, there are other things missing.