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Live Fast, Die Old: An Obit to Aspire To

  • Najib Benouar

You only live once.

It’s been a good while since we’ve seen a better example of a life well-lived than John Cooper Fitch, who died at age 95 this week. We can only hope our New York Times obit reads like this.

Fitch was a fighter pilot who survived being shot down. Then he went on to be a successful race car driver—after racing yachts. Fitch socialized with royals—he was kissed by Evita after he won the 1951 Grand Prix of Argentina, and the best line of his obituary might be this one:

He liked to tell the story of how he met the Duke of Windsor at one soiree: they were relieving themselves on a bush at the time. The duke became a friend.

Fitch also was a leader in automobile safety; he invented the impact-softening barrels ubiquitous on highway off-ramps to this day, credited with saving 17,000 lives. He was even tapped to design a Chevy sports car, which led to him being “Nadered” before the term had been invented—Ralph was a consumer advocate at the time and pushed Chevy to stop production. The way this philosopher/Ricky Bobby summed it all up: “I always needed to go fast.” Needless to say, it’s worth a read.

And worth reconsidering the notion of “live fast, die young.”

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