Randall Jacobs — known to his family as “Uncle Bunky” — told his last joke on May 4th, according to his obituary in The Republic.
But what’s likely making him laugh “from wherever he is right now,” is the way his life story “spread like wildfire” across social media, said his nephew Chris Santa Maria, who wrote the obituary.
The obituary introduced Jacobs as a Phoenix man who died at 65, “having lived a life that would have sent a lesser man to his grave decades earlier.” It ran in The Republic on May 10th and recently went viral, resonating with thousands on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram.
“It’s totally insane,” Santa Maria told The Republic. “I don’t even know how to handle it.”
Now, Jacobs’ legacy will live on in more than likes and retweets. Santa Maria is working with O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery to immortalize Uncle Bunky the best way he knows how: a brew made in his honor.
Spread Like Wildfire
Online fanfare over Jacobs began with a tweet that featured a photo of his print obituary.
“Now this is an obit,” Warren Kinsella tweeted with the photo on May 19th. It has since been retweeted over 21,000 times and has received more than 120,000 favorites.
Now this is an obit. pic.twitter.com/VLdljoq2lh
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) May 20, 2020
Responses came pouring in from Twitter users praising both Jacobs and the obit.
Of the thousands who replied, many said they wished they could have met Jacobs. For others, the obituary’s unfiltered honesty struck a chord.
“I’ve seen a lot of responses saying something like, ‘Wow. I really hope that someone would write an obituary like that for me,’” Santa Maria said.
Writing the obituary came naturally, as Santa Maria and his uncle shared an especially close bond.
“When someone leaves this world, you start to take stock in all these different stories and memories,” he said. “You start to realize just how important they were to you.”
The official cause of Jacobs’ death is still unknown, but Santa Maria said he doesn’t think it was related to the coronavirus.
An “undeniable influence”
After Santa Maria saw his uncle’s obituary had gone viral, he offered more wild memories of Uncle Bunky in a thread on Twitter.
They included Jacobs handing him a “hot” sawed-off shotgun, introducing Santa Maria to music he wasn’t allowed to listen to, and yelling “I’m sorry, I thought this was America!” while he was getting kicked out of a NASCAR race.
“But he wasn’t just your crazy uncle,” Santa Maria said.
He called his uncle a gentle soul — the type of guy who would spend his last $20 on tokens for Santa Maria to use at an arcade back in the day.
Santa Maria said he was inspired by the way his uncle let actions, not words, define him. He said Jacobs’ “undeniable influence” pushed him to try new things, travel the world and start his career as a visual artist in New York City, where he lives today.
One of Jacobs’ favorite phrases, per his obit, was “Do what Bunky say, not what Bunky do,” but that was easier said than done.
“Of course we did what Bunky did, you know?” Santa Maria said.
Foreseeing the end of his life, Jacobs called his nephew and asked him to visit.
“I remember crying into my face mask on the plane because I was so scared of what I was going to see when I showed up to his apartment,” Santa Maria said.
But when he arrived at his uncle’s apartment, Santa Maria said he didn’t see a man in distress or pain. He saw someone who knew it was his time and wanted his end to be “on his own terms.”
Santa Maria took care of his uncle during those last days, which he noted were filled with cigarettes, vodka, DiGiorno’s pizza, Gatorade and memories.
The party will never be the same
Jacobs died while Santa Maria was on his flight back to New York.
“It was his time,” Santa Maria said. “I’m surprised he made it past 45 — it was totally insane.”
In the obituary, Santa Maria highlights his uncle’s “wisecracks, mangled metaphors, and inspired profanity that reflected the Arizona dive bars, Colorado ski slopes, and various dodgy establishments where he spent his days and nights.”
“When the end drew near, he left us with a final Bunkyism: “I’m ready for the dirt nap, but you can’t leave the party if you can’t find the door,” Santa Maria wrote.
A beer tribute to Uncle Bunky
Uncle Bunky’s beer could be available at O.H.S.O. Brewery as early as August.
The brewery recently began collaborating with Santa Maria on the beer to honor his uncle. They’re still working out specifics, including a name, but it will likely be a breakfast stout, said O.H.S.O. Brewery barrel program manager Brody Coffman.
Santa Maria will help design the label.
“It’s going to be colorful and wild,” he said.
It’s a fitting tribute to Jacobs, whose obituary asks that, in lieu of flowers, readers honor him by paying someone else’s open bar tab.
Santa Maria and Coffman plan to take the request a step further by finding a way to donate proceeds of Uncle Bunky’s brew to help local dive bars struggling during the pandemic.
It’s what Uncle Bunky would have wanted.
“We’re going to try to immortalize him the best we can” Coffman said.