For Father’s Day: A Tale of Two Patriarchs

Written by Nicole J.

Two famous men died recently, from similar illnesses, at similar ages, both in California hospitals, and I couldn’t help but notice some similarities and differences between the two. Luke Perry, 52, a 90s heart throb known for his role on Beverly Hills 90210, died of a massive stroke on March 4, 2019. John Singleton, 51, legendary producer and director, also died of a stroke on April 29, 2019.

Though the following statement doesn’t apply to the two men I will be discussing, it still bears mentioning. Every time a famous person dies and news gets out that they don’t have a will, it blows my mind. I just don’t understand it. How are you wealthy and ill prepared for your guaranteed death? Do rich people think scientists will find a cure for death before they pass? Everybody dies! Putting off important business decisions will only hurt your family. I struggle to understand the logic. Black people collectively lack generational wealth, and doing things like dying without a will can have an impact on why that is. Now, moving on.

The first thing I will point out is that both men had wills. A well-prepared patriarch will do what he needs to do to secure his family after his death. Money brings out the absolute worst in people, so having clear documentation on how assets are to be divided can mean the difference between a family feud before, during and after death, or having time to actually mourn. However, a will is pointless if not up to date. According to the Daily Mail, John’s will was last updated in 1993, when he only had one child. 26 years and 6 more children later, that will inevitably cause some tension among the family if true. Not to mention, I’d wager a good portion of all those assets would go to lawyer fees for sorting things out. Conversely, Luke last updated his will in 2015 after a cancer scare; that would mean that his fiancé might not be mentioned if they were engaged after the last update.

Lesson: Make a will and keep it updated.

Luke had two children and John had seven. I’m going to catch heat for this but it bears mentioning. Not because you’re rich means you should have a sports team of kids. The top 3 richest men in the world (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet) have 4, 3, and 3 children respectively. Allegedly, one of John’s children had to set up a GoFundMe to finish his college education, and according to the linked article, John was allegedly embroiled in child support issues as well. Always do what you can to ensure your children’s success from birth; that may mean having only one child or forgoing becoming a parent at all. There’s nothing wrong with being child free, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Lesson: Even if you’re ridiculously wealthy, you should not bear more children than can be cared for. Money helps, but it won’t raise your kids for you.

Luke was married to his wife when his two children were born. Though they ended up divorcing, articles I have looked at state that they were committed to co-parenting; I couldn’t find any mention of child support issues. Both of Luke’s children, his ex-wife, his fiancé, mom, and siblings were at his side at his passing, which shows they could be at least be amicable at such a difficult time.

John was married once, and it appears only one out of his seven children seem to have been born in wedlock. Details I could find regarding his relationship with them wasn’t positive, with a few mentions of difficulty surrounding child support, infidelity, and apparently a set of project twins. At the time immediately before John’s death, news outlets were reporting burgeoning issues between John’s mother and executor of his estate, Sheila, and one of his daughters, Cleopatra, regarding dividing his assets.

Lesson: Get married before you have children. Let your potential husband/father of your children prove his commitment to you before giving him babies. Marriage, much like money, a will, or a power of attorney, is not just a piece of paper.

Both men died young of strokes. A leading cause of strokes is high blood pressure, a silent killer and common affliction among black people, due to our high rates of obesity and salt-laden diets. See your doctor regularly, cut back on your salt intake, and get some exercise, even if it’s just parking a little further away and walking, or taking the stairs.

Lesson: Death is guaranteed. Delay it as much as possible by taking care of yourself here and now.

I am not downing either of these two men. Death is never easy, and I hope both families are comforted in their time of grief. But we can learn from other people’s mistakes so we don’t have to make them ourselves. What lessons have you taken from these situations? What’s been your experience with an unexpected death? Do you have a will? Let us know in the comments.

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