Proper title for a deceased, retired officer
January 3, 2008 1:07 PM   Subscribe

All my life he's been "Col. (Ret.) G. P. Stickfigure". He passed away this week and I don't know if/how etiquette changes a proper address.

As long as I can remember, I've addressed letters to my grandpa with the above title.
While still in the service he was known for being a stickler for precisely following the rules.

Now, I find myself preparing a display for his funeral service and not knowing whether that would still be an appropriate designation. Does anybody know whether there is a rule governing this?
posted by Mr Stickfigure to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
According to the style guide for Coast Guard Magazine, (Ret.) should be replaced with (Dec.) for deceased.

Also, most of the military title guidelines I've seen are in "Rank Name, Service Status" format, as in "Col. G. P. Stickfigure, US Army (Ret.)". And most guides also say to spell out rather than abbreviate for formal invitations and whatnot.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:21 PM on January 3, 2008

I am not sure that it would be appropriate or necessary to identify that he is deceased in his title at his own funeral service. Protocol has no rigid, inflexible rules; everything can be adapted to the situation.

I would identify him as Col. (Ret.) G. P. Stickfigure.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2008

Hey, a Count oughtta know about this! So, I agree with Zig.

Col. (Dec.) certainly doesn't sound right for the funeral. I'd go with either Col.(Ret.) which is probably familiar to everyone there, or just Col.

And, condolences.
posted by beagle at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2008

Best answer: Right, the magazine style guide is telling writers how to refer to people in the third person. That wouldn't really be appropriate for a funeral.

What I was always told was that, as far as etiquette is concerned, the deceased is considered to be present at his or her funeral. In a eulogy or conversation, I'd simply refer to him as Col. Stickfigure, and put the (Ret.) on printed materials. The (Dec.) wouldn't really come into play until after the funeral.
posted by Naberius at 3:08 PM on January 3, 2008

Agreed: you should spell it all out, formally, for this final ceremony.

Colonel G. P. Stickfigure, U.S. Army (Retired)
posted by davidmsc at 4:54 PM on January 3, 2008

The US Army A-Z lists a Protocol Office here, but the link isn't working (for me anyway). You could try a more local protocol office, e.g. for your state guard. Here's California's, for example.
posted by biffa at 2:37 AM on January 4, 2008

Let me first offer my condolences as well.

I would also check with the Protocol Office (as this is exactly why they exist) but I would point out that your grandfather is technically no longer retired. My understanding is that after death, the title can remain but the parenthetical gets dropped. I would use

"Colonel G. P. Stickfigure, U.S. Army"

or even leave off the "U.S. Army" part. That, I believe, will be your preference.
posted by indiebass at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2008

I should have said: "would be according to your preference".

posted by indiebass at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2008

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