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Firefighter's kids help him get the last laugh... in his obit

William Ziegler was the kind of guy who could see the lighter side of just about anything — even an obituary.

In fact, he often forwarded witty death notices to his four children when he came across them online. "He'd send us a picture or link and say, 'I wonder what the story behind this one is,' or 'This sounded like a hell of a guy,'" Sharah Currier, his oldest child, told TODAY via email.

Courtesy of the Ziegler family
New Orleans firefighter William Ziegler.

So when their dad passed away, Sharah and her siblings decided to see to it that he got the last laugh — in his obituary.

The 69-year-old "escaped this mortal realm" July 29, the obit in The Times-Picayune began. "We think he did it on purpose to avoid having to make a decision in the pending presidential election."

Courtesy of the Ziegler family
Ziegler shows off his (fake) tattoo sleeve alongside his son.

Growing up, Ziegler spent some time in the Navy...but not too much.

"William volunteered for service in the United States Navy at the ripe old age of 17 and immediately realized he didn't much enjoy being bossed around. He only stuck it out for one war," Ziegler's children wrote.

Courtesy of the Ziegler family
William Ziegler during his Navy service.

Instead their father found passion elsewhere.

"Upon his return to the City of New Orleans in 1971, thinking it best to keep an eye on him, government officials hired William as a fireman," they continued. "After 25 years, he suddenly realized that running away from burning buildings made more sense than running toward them. He promptly retired."

Throughout his life, Ziegler always took that kind of irreverent view. But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he noticed hesitation from co-workers to use humor in everyday activities. That was something he set out to change.

"Even in the darkest of times he thought humor was important," Currier told TODAY. "It functions, in a way, like a canary in a coal mine: We know we're in real trouble when we can't find something to laugh about."

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And even death has its funny side, they sought to convey in their dad's obit. "Following his wishes, there will not be a service, but well-wishers are encouraged to write a note of farewell on a Schaefer Light beer can and drink it in his honor," it read.

Courtesy of the Ziegler family
Ziegler, pictured with his two sons.

Currier is certain Ziegler would have loved the way she and her siblings decided to honor him. "If anything, he'd be surprised at all that we left out...This has been our last gift to him, something that has honored his memory in a way that he would have liked. We like to think this is an obituary that he would have forwarded to us," she said.

Courtesy of the Ziegler family
Ziegler, pictured with his first grandson.

And just in case you weren't sure about the reason for their creative direction of this piece, the kids happily clear things up in the final line.

"Unlike previous times, this is not a ploy to avoid creditors or old girlfriends," the obituary concludes. "He assures us that he is gone. He will be greatly missed."

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