As the morbidly obese die, coffins change shape

By: Justin Nobel | Date: Thu, July 1st, 2010

Walter Hudson was the fourth most obese human in medical history. By age 12, he weighed 200 pounds and by age 33 his waist measured 119 inches (a Guinness World Record) and he weighed 1,197 pounds.

Walter Hudson weighed 1,200 pounds, the fourth most obese human in medical history. His daily diet included, two boxes of sausages, 12 eggs, four hamburgers, four cheeseburgers, three ham steaks, two chickens and four heads of broccoli. His massive coffin required 12 pallbearers.

His daily diet was as follows: two boxes of sausages, a pound of bacon, 12 eggs, a loaf of bread, four hamburgers, four cheeseburgers, eight portions of fries, three ham steaks, two chickens, four baked potatoes, four sweet potatoes, four heads of broccoli and 36 pints of soda. He made headlines when he got sandwiched in his bathroom and was unable to move, it took nine men to get him out. Hudson died in his sleep at the age of 47, just weeks after he announced plans to be married.


As the world has become wealthier it has become fatter and this creates problems for the afterlife. Morbidly obese corpses often can’t fit into mortuary refrigerators or crematory furnaces. Traditional coffins were once tapered and widest at the shoulders, but to accommodate a general increase in body-weight, most present day coffins are cigar-shaped, wide throughout. Some coffins have become so large they can no longer fit inside a hearse or in a standard grave, forcing families to buy two plots in the cemetery. Indiana-based Goliath Casket Co. specializes in oversized coffins; a normal coffin is about 28 inches wide; Goliath’s biggest is more than 50 inches wide. Such coffins can be too heavy for pallbearers to carry. “If the worst comes to the worst, we will keep the family away and the coffin will be taken in on a truck,” a British cemetery manager told a reporter. “It is not the most dignified way out.”

But many morbidly obese lose their dignity long before the die. Often, they live sad and troubled lives, and die premature and chilling deaths.

Jose Luis Garza lived in Juarez, Mexico and was always fat. At the beginning of 2008, both his parents died within weeks of each other. Because of this, he said, his overeating became out of control. Manuel Uribe, who has been bedridden since 2001 and is presently the worlds’ fattest man, sent Garza packages with kiwis, grapefruit, pears and a protein supplement in an effort to get him to trim down. Garza didn’t lose any weight and by the summer he was having trouble breathing and was struggling to eat. Emergency workers were called in. They had to demolish his bedroom wall to get him out. Garza was placed in the back of a truck and rushed to the hospital, but died en route. He was 47 and weighed 992 pounds. “The family wanted to cremate him but there wasn’t an adequate oven for someone his size,” a funeral home worker said at the time.


Carol Yager, of Beecher, Michigan, says she developed an eating disorder as a child in response to being sexually abused by a close family member. Her weight ballooned to well over 1,000 pounds. By the early 1990s, bacteria was decomposing her skin, a condition known as cellulitis. She was also having difficulty breathing and had dangerously high blood sugar levels. She could no longer stand or walk because her muscles had atrophied to such a degree that they could not support her. Yager was hospitalized 13 times in two years, according to the local fire chief. Each trip required as many as 20 firefighters from two stations to assist ambulance workers in carrying Yager, in relay fashion, from her home, through the doorway, and outside to the awaiting ambulance. In January of 1993 she was admitted to a medical center and put on a 1,200 calorie a day diet. She lost 521 pounds but upon release gained it all back. Yager had frequent boyfriends though her family questioned the authenticity of some. Her last one, Larry Maxwell, was characterized by her family as “an opportunist who courted media attention for money-making possibilities.” In 1994, Yager died of kidney failure. Shortly thereafter, Maxwell married one of her good friends.

Mills Darden, born in North Carolina, in October 1799, is one of history’s earliest cases of morbid obesity. He was 7 feet 6 inches and weighed between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds. At his largest, it required more than 13 yards of cloth to make him a coat. He was a farmer and reportedly owned a saloon. His wife Mary was 4 feet 11 inches and weighed 98 pounds. They had several children together. Darden died in 1857 and was buried in a coffin that was eight feet long, thirty-five inches deep and thirty-two inches across.

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