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End of Life Washington
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Tribute to Joanne Brekke

by Midge Levy


Joanne was a life long King County resident who was active in education and community concerns. She served in the Washington State House of Representatives for the 32nd District from 1978 – 1993, with a particular interest in human services and the environment and during this time introduced three Right To Die bills.  She was introduced to the board of the Hemlock Society of WA State by her friend and neighbor, Barbara Dority, and was enthusiastically elected to the board in 1996.

The Hemlock Newsletter reported her statement as follows:  “During my tenure, I had the honor of working on legislation on end-of-life issues.  I had the privilege of supporting both my mother and my step-father at the end of their lives in 1994, and am now even more convinced of the need to control one’s destiny.”

Joanne chaired our Legislative Action Committee and served as a volunteer lobbyist, following bills that had relevance to our issue and working closely with the ACLU. She was invited by the National Hemlock Society to attend meetings and share her experience in attempting the passage of legislation in WA State.  Following the merger of our two organizations Robb remembers Joanne’s  invaluable assistance to him in keeping him informed of state political developments.

Sadly Joanne was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she and Governor Booth Gardner were members of the same Parkinson’s Support Group.  She continued to attend board meetings for some years but struggled with her symptoms and communication became difficult although she appeared alert.  She will be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to know her as an outstanding leader in our movement who did a great deal to educate fellow legislators and pave the way for the passage of our Death with Dignity law.

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