Ron Abramowitz

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  • Location Detroit
  1. Bill Bucko is gone

    {written June 10, 2011 by Bill Bucko}{photo of Bill was taken just a few weeks prior} Memorial Service for Dr. Jack Kevorkian Friday morning I was one of 200 – 250 people to gather in the lofty granite and stained glass mausoleum of White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in suburban Troy, Michigan. I had never been able to attend one of Dr. Jack’s trials, though I had written letters to the editor in his support. So I wanted now to pay him homage. Several TV and radio crews were present. The audience was mostly middle and old aged, including several people with disabilities. One Vietnam veteran in a wheel chair wore a sweatshirt that read: “This is your brain on religion,” with a graphic of a tiny shrunken brain within a large head. From the rear of the crowd I could see the flag-draped coffin (Dr. Jack had served in the Korean War), and to the left of it a photo of the elderly doctor smiling. He was an atheist, so the service was entirely secular: no prayers, hymns or Bible readings. When I arrived someone was playing his favorite Bach music on a keyboard. First to speak was the doctor’s niece. She spoke of him with great affection, describing him as an unpretentious man who loved ideas and was eager to speak with anyone else who did so, no matter who they were or the level of their education. She said that above all he loved and admired competence. Then we listened to the woman who sheltered Dr. Jack from the press in her home for six months at the time of his fifth (and final) run-in with the law. She spoke of his kindness, his love of music, his playing the flute with her daughter, his lack of concern for worldly possessions (he arrived with only a toothbrush and change of underwear, and bought his clothes at the Salvation Army). She and her family kept in constant touch with him, during his eight years in prison. Next to speak was Kevorkian’s second lawyer, Mayer Morganroth. (Conspicuously absent was flamboyant, controversial Geoffrey Fieger, his first lawyer, who secured the doctor’s acquittal in his first four trials.) Morganroth explained Dr. Jack’s motivation in facing his final murder trial without a lawyer: “I would rather lose by myself, than win with Geoffrey.” For once he wanted the issue of assisted suicide to be center stage, rather than have Fieger get him off on a technicality. Morganroth added that when the trial was nearly over, Dr. Jack did ask for his help, but Morganroth had to tell him sadly, “It’s too late.” The doctor still hoped to win on appeal, but his hopes were dashed. Morganroth described how, on one visit to Dr. Jack in prison, the other inmates caught sight of Dr. Jack in the courtyard and (more just than Michigan’s corrupt judicial system) they cheered him. Morganroth compared the doctor to a voice crying out like Paul Revere’s. He described how the doctor, in Korea, conceived the idea of saving lives on the battlefield by using the dead for transfusions to the living. Never one to expect more from others than he did from himself, he experimented on himself—which is how he contracted Hepatitis C, for which no screening existed in that era. He described Dr. Jack’s support for the hospice movement, and for his favorite charity, the Salvation Army, which he admired because they helped people no matter what their ideas or creed. The last man to speak praised Dr. Jack as a hero for his courage, for having what so many lack: a backbone, a spine. Finally we were told that the interment would be private, but we were invited to step forward and lay a hand on the coffin in farewell, if we wished. I did so, with a lump in my throat. There were very few flowers, but I noticed one display, bearing the card “To dearest uncle.” Then the service was over. But the crucial issue Dr. Jack raised and championed, let us hope, is not over. The words that kept coming to my mind were from John Galt’s speech, in "Atlas Shrugged;" I don’t know if Dr. Jack ever read them, but he should have: “For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.”