The Farewell Tribute
Published January 14, 2014 by Mary McShane
Unless you preplan it, chances are you will not author your own obituary. Many of us have family members who will undertake that task after we die.
When we open the newspaper, we expect to read the traditional obituary that pays tribute, recounting one's offspring and their offspring's offspring, listing last employer or profession, some benevolent associations with clubs and organizations and maybe even mention a good deed or two. The last few lines might invite mourners to share a meal or donate to a favorite organization.
What we don't expect is to read an obituary heavily laden with hate and contempt for a mother who abused her children.
And that is the topic of this hub.
1. What if your childhood memories of a parent were filled with nothing but physical and mental abuse which ultimately resulted in your removal from and many subsequent return visits to that abusive parent?
2. Now what if that parent has just died and a traditional obituary was expected to be published in the newspaper, possibly extolling her life as a mother and businesswoman in the Nevada community?
In September 2013, on behalf of herself and her siblings, Katherine Reddick, age 57, from Texas, submitted a paid obituary to The Reno Gazette-Journal website on the passing of her mother, Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick at the age of 78. Patrick Reddick, age 58 from Nevada says he gave his sister his stamp of approval on the wording of the obituary.
In what is being touted as the most scathing and worse obituary ever written, the siblings say they wanted to not only shame her but to cast the spotlight on child abuse awareness. They have certainly done that, judging from the results of a Google search which returned over 142,000 sites.
There were once eight children, now six remain. Their story is one that has been talked about, rehashed and even criticized on the internet since this story hit the The Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper's website on September 10, 2013.
The obituary begins: “She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible."
Here is their story ...
Biography of Marianne Johnson-Reddick
Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick was born on January 4, 1935 and grew up "being raised by nuns and priests." She went on to become a nun in The Good Shepherd Order where she remained for eight years until she married. She had eight children, six of whom are still living.
According to a biography by her daughter, in 1965, Marianne vied for the Nevada Legislature wanting the state to give up its sovereign immunity. Nothing more was written after this statement.
In 1967, Reddick opened Ace Secretarial and Printing Services.
In 1968, she applied for and was granted a license to open an escort service in Reno, Nevada, naming it Academy Personnel Agency.
In 1970, as owner of the agency, Marianne Johnson-Reddick testified before the Nevada Equal Rights Commission that she had the words "White Only" printed on work referrals, the paperwork which accompanied people she sent out on jobs. She told the Commission that a local business owner was not happy that a black applicant had been sent for a job interview. Whether that was true or not, Reddick claimed her reasons for printing "White Only" on her referrals was because she didn't want to embarrass African Americans by sending them to jobs where the employers clearly wanted only white people to apply.
Around 1963, six of the eight Reddick children were sent to the Nevada Children's Home in Carson City, Nevada, an orphanage which is now closed. They were part of the foster care system until either they joined the military, got married, reached the age of 18 or were ordered to go back and live with their mother.
Katherine Reddick, author of the obituary, was the last Reddick child to leave the orphanage in 1974. Of the eight children, a sister died in 2012 and a brother, William Patrick Reddick, age 16 months old, died in a foster home in Las Vegas in 1964 from a blow to his head. The state's investigation found the foster family not negligent in this case.
However, in 1966, Marianne Johnson-Reddick sued State of Nevada for $200,000 for the death of the baby. She asked for $175,000 in damages from the foster parents, Edward and June Jablonski. She claimed that their neighbors had reported numerous incidences about the foster home to the State Health and Welfare Department but that the complaints were not heeded.
I can imagine the reception her lawsuit got considering all of her children had been removed from her custody.
The Reddick children recount that the abuse continued when the children were forced to visit their mother on weekends during the time they lived at the orphanage and in foster homes, even though they had been removed from her abusive care. This was because of a Nevada state law that put parent's rights before children's rights.
This is the same law that the adult Reddick children sought to have changed. In 1987 Patrick Reddick testified before the Nevada Legislature regarding a bill about child abuse and the termination of parental rights. The bill, written by former Nevada Senator Sue Wagner and passed in 1987, allows children to terminate parental rights.
"I'm very happy that they now are free of their mother," Wagner said when she was notified about Reddick's death.
Patrick and Katherine Reddick were interviewed by the television program Inside Edition and various newspapers. They recount the many times they were beaten with a steel-tipped belt and made to sleep on the floor in the office on Court Street in Reno where their mother ran a brothel. One sibling (who asked a newspaper not to be identified) states that Patrick and Katherine protected her from their mother all her life and that she has been in hiding for the last 30 years. Her mother's death liberates her, she said.
Ward Of The State
In May 2013, Marianne Johnson-Reddick was removed from her trailer home and placed in Manor Care Nursing Home because she was ill with bladder cancer and she could no longer take care of herself and 13 cats.
After being made a ward of the state in May, she told her attorney Lance van Lydegraf that there was no one who would assume guardianship to make decisions for her regarding her medical care and financial matters. He said he exhausted attempts to have a family member take over guardianship.
In her public guardianship file, a psychiatric evaluation and interview was completed at that time. She says that some of her children went their way, she went her way and that some of her children died. She does not mention that her children spent most of their childhood in an orphanage.
She never gave up her parental rights and the court system never pursued terminating her rights. For over fifteen years, she allowed her children to be raised by the foster care system, with weekend visits to her home and office where she ran a brothel.
She admits to marrying twice, although her family suspects that she married many more times. In 1970, she married Grant Crumley. In 1976, she married Dale Vreeland. William Reddick died February 14, 2013 and on this website, Marianne Johnson-Reddick is listed as his spouse.
Pedro Guajardo, a neighbor for over 30 years, says Marianne Johnson-Reddick had been in a wheelchair for most of the years he had known her.
Public records show she made a living as a paralegal and by forwarding mail for Nevada based companies to other states and countries so they would have a Nevada postmark. Richard Valentine, a retired professor, says in an interview with The Reno Gazette-Journal that he used her address for tax purposes for nearly 30 years and he paid her to redirect mail for him.
Visiting The Nursing Home
Patrick Reddick tells The Daily Mail (a news website) that he traveled to see his mother in Manor Care Nursing Home one week before she died when doctors contacted him to say she was on her deathbed.
He refers to "we" in the story and although it was not made clear who accompanied him, it is implied that his wife was possibly with him.
He said he reluctantly made the trip to see her because he wanted to make sure the nursing home and doctors were talking about the right person. He said he would come only if she could not see him.
He stated he still that afraid of the woman he knew as his mother and asked the doctors to sedate Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick and to be sure that she was asleep before he went in the room. "We" wore sunglasses because "we didn't want her to recognize us."
Before this day, he had not seen his mother in over 30 years.
And In Other News ...
- 2008 Worse Obituary Written - Dolores Aguilar - "had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing... There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart."
Dr. Phil McGraw had this to say:
Doctor Phil McGraw weighed in on the obituary on the Today’s Professionals segment of the Today Show. He said, “Maybe she deserved it completely, but that's not becoming to the children. I mean they have to live with it. That's not becoming to them. If they had those emotions tell her. Why wait till she dies and put it in the newspaper?”
The comments on this story and on many other online reports of this story bear out that obituaries do not have to sing the praises of the deceased. These adult Reddick children have been speaking to this issue for years, which ultimately resulted in a law being passed protecting the rights of children and terminating the rights of abusive parents.
"This could be your obituary"
From The Reno Gazette-Journal:
Patrick Reddick, the second oldest of eight children, said in a phone interview:
“People may see this as something we did to shame our mother. But this is to bring shame to the issue of child abuse. I want every single person to realize this could be your obituary.”
The actual obituary
The original obituary says Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick died on September 30, 2013 at Manor Care Nursing Home. Since The Reno Gazette Journal, MyNews4.com and several other news outlets confirmed that she died on August 30, 2013, much has been commented about the date error and stated place of death (some reports say she died at home). Some people commented on the websites saying the whole story was a hoax. The newspaper pulled the obituary from the website due to the errors.
UNEDITED VERSION OF THE SUBMITTED OBITUARY:
January 4, 1935 - Sept. 30, 2013
Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.
On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the afterlife reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.
Most of us have found peace in helping those who have been exposed to child abuse and hope this message of her final passing can revive our message that abusing children is unforgiveable, shameless, and should not be tolerated in a “humane society”. Our greatest wish now, is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.
Attorney Reacts To Obituary
According to Inside Edition, Lance Van Lydegraf, Reddick's attorney said she died without friends or family.
Van Lydegraf said, "My initial reaction to reading the obituary was shock and amazement. She had been at home and collapsed, unable to get out of her wheelchair and into bed, and had been on the floor unable to move until she was found and brought to the hospital."
He tracked down her children, but they made their feelings clear. Van Lydegraf said, "They wanted no benefits from her passing, no part of her estate, and, in fact, it was a relief to hear she had passed."
Katherine Reddick told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: “The things she did to us were horrible,“ Katherine Reddick said. “But it’s still happening to kids every day.”
Patrick Reddick said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press "People doing that right now, they can read that obit and think."
Opinion Poll - Obituary Notices
What is your opinion of adult children using this type of obituary to bring awareness to child abuse?
I don't deny that the Reddick children have a lot to be angry about, given the documented abuse of their childhood.
However, I do not think we have seen the last of this type of obituary. I think it will set the trend for more abused adult children to write similar obituaries on the passing of their parents.
Many commenters on websites say they should have dealt with their mother while she was alive. But upon reading the hundreds of websites where Patrick and Katherine Reddick were interviewed, that really wasn't possible.
In my view, if a parent is not ready, willing and able to admit to abuse, confrontation is pointless and only serves to add to an already stressed and distressed adult child.
The Reddicks state in many interviews that they haven't seen their mother in over 30 years because she was still abusive to them and their loved ones in their adult years. One report states that two of the remaining six adult children have grown up to be as abusive to their own spouses and children as their mother was to them. They said they choose not have relationships with them.
The old adage that abused children grow up to be abusers may very well be true in that respect. However, not "all" abused children grow up to be abusers. I have friends who had horribly abusive parents who grew up to be fine adults and loving parents. One couple we have been friends with for over 25 years, are foster parents in New Jersey for the last 22 years.
One adult Reddick daughter, who asked a reporter not to name her, said that her mother ruined every prospective relationship she had with a young man and that it wasn't until she completely cut her mother out of her life that she was able to marry and have children.
Would I have gone to those extremes? Maybe I would have, but I don't think we can begin to answer that question until we have walked a mile in their shoes. From what I have read, and I have been reading all day about this on over 100 websites, I would have done whatever I had to do to keep myself and my loved ones safe and sheltered from this woman's physical and mental abuse.
I am thankful for the parents I have had and I'm so sorry the Reddick family didn't benefit from at least one supportive and loving parent.
I hope now that they can take ownership of their lives again and be happy.
So, what do you think?
Your views are welcomed in the comments.
© Mary McShane
© 2014 Mary McShane