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Assisted Suicide Advocate Jack Kevorkian Dies at 83

The Armenian American who lived in Michigan was a lightning rod for controversy.

Assisted suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian of Royal Oak died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., this morning after being hospitalized with kidney and respiratory problems off and on for several weeks. He was 83.

Kevorkian first made headlines for his right-to-die stand in 1990 when he assisted in the death of Janet Adkins, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Kevorkian admitted to assisting in an estimated 130 deaths over the years.

The Armenian American was also an artist, and the Armenian Library & Museum of America in Watertown recently featured a exhibit of his works.

Kevorkian served eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence in the 1998 death of Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease. He was released from prison in 2007 and returned to live in an apartment in Royal Oak.

"He embodied the true American spirit of doing what's right regardless of cost to himself," Clawson resident Kimberly Middlewood said after hearing the news of Kevorkian's death. "I hope he is remembered as a selfless hero who served eight years in prison as the result of ending suffering."

Royal Oak resident John Schultz remembers sharing a wall with Kevorkian in downtown Royal Oak when Schultz was an editor for the Royal Oak Mirror.

Kervorian lived in an apartment building on Main Street that was between Mr. B's and the building at Third and Main, said Schultz, now the managing editor at DBusiness magazine based in Royal Oak.

"The Mirror offices were in that building and my office and Jack's apartment shared a wall," he said. "I would hear Jack in his apartment doing dishes or moving around, playing flute, etc. We would run into each other occasionally in the adjoining entrance. We would chat, but he never would discuss what he called 'his business.'

"One night I worked late to around 3 a.m. on page proofs for The Mirror. I went home for a couple hours of sleep before the printer came the next morning. I came downtown to the office around 8 a.m. and the place was surrounded with media trucks and reporters from all over. 

"I asked what was going on and found out Dr. Kevorkian had performed an assisted suicide the night before – and I was three feet and a wall away working on the page proofs and didn't hear a thing!"

It was the first assisted suicide in Kevorkian's apartment, Schultz noted. The previous ones were performed in his van. "From that point, downtown Royal Oak was a buzz with folks wanting to get a glimpse of him or his apartment," Schultz said.

The apartment building was torn down a couple years later for Mr. B's to expand.

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