Notifying a distant family member of the passing of one of their own in the Aloha State is one of the least favorite tasks of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Honolulu County, Hawai’i. It’s typically done by telephone; calls are made in the morning local time to account for the time difference back on the mainland.
The script is very simple and to the point. “This is Betty from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Mr. Olcott, I’m very sorry to inform you that your brother has died here in Hawai’i.”
In Edward Olcott’s passing, an additional explanation was necessary. “Your brother passed away last week. I apologize for the delay in notifying you but we were unable to identify your brother because he expired on the street and was found without any identification. We surmise that his wallet was stolen when he died. We had to send his fingerprints to the FBI and we just got the results back this morning.”
Next are the questions about medical history. “Did your brother suffer from heart disease? Did he use drugs?” These are used to confirm the autopsy results. In Ed’s case, it was a heart attack.
Finally, the key question. “How will you be taking care of funeral arrangements?”
Now that involves potential cost to the family member answering the phone. Bernard Olcott never liked to be left with the bill. He liked it least of all when stuck with the check from the person he had fought so much over so little. His own brother.