If anyone other than Mark Twain has the right to say “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” it would be Seattle professor Jim Diers.
Diers, a University of Washington faculty member well known among civic circles, began receiving condolence messages on Thursday afternoon about his own death. A perplexed Diers soon realized that the Mayor of Seattle had issued a press release mourning his death.
“I’m very saddened by the death of Jim Diers,” Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement. “He was an innovator in bringing communities together, and made a significant contribution to the foundation that makes Seattle special. His work with neighborhoods was passionate and progressive. His service to this city was unmeasurable.”
Diers responded to the outpouring of condolence messages by posting on Facebook.
“I genuinely appreciate the mayor’s concern, but I want to assure you that I am very much alive,” Diers wrote, then added a deadpan joke. “I’m dead tired today, but otherwise, I’m feeling great! Thanks, everyone, for your concern but I really don’t have any time for death.”
Diers’ friends and family responded on Facebook with humor and relief.
“Come home and drink Seattle coffee: a sure cure!” wrote one friend.
“A collective ‘phew!’ can be heard around the globe!” wrote another.
“Feel free to keep the flowers I sent,” said a third.
Close to 30 minutes after the original email, the mayor’s office issued another statement with the subject line “CORRECTION!” The email stated, “The Mayor’s office was mistakenly informed of the death of Jim Diers. He is alive and well.”
A spokesperson at the mayor’s office told ABC News today that it mistook his death with that of another local official whose name sounded similar. Joe Dear, a former chief of staff to Gov. Gary Locke and director of the Washington State Investment Board, had died of cancer the day before.