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'Granny Loved Weed': The cause at the heart of an eye-catching obituary

An Oregon woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's hoped to use the state's Death with Dignity Act, but instead had to fly to Switzerland during a pandemic.

Maggie Vespa

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Published: 1:11 PM PDT April 28, 2020
Updated: 10:37 AM PDT April 29, 2020

Clutching handfuls of marijuana and wearing a souvenir T-shirt from Las Vegas, Anne Parker’s smiling face appeared in Portland newspapers last week.

The obituary headline in the Portland Mercury matched the tone of her happy photo: "Granny Loved Weed." 

Amid a global pandemic rife with headlines of sickness and death, the family wanted to make sure the 70-year-old Portland native’s obituary got noticed.

The main message, embedded multiple paragraphs below, was serious.

"I think it's kind of important that people know what happened to her," said her grandson Joel Bocek. "I'm sure there's other people that are in the same situation or have been through it and have been kind of a bit frustrated."

To be clear, Parker, known as "Grandma Anne" to much of the family, didn’t die of COVID-19. She didn’t die of Alzheimer’s disease either, despite having been diagnosed with it a year and a half ago.

She died of a lethal dose of the sedative Nembutal, administered legally by an IV, while she sipped champagne in a Swiss doctor’s office.

Parker chose to end her life before, in her opinion, Alzheimer’s made it not worth living.

That said, to die on her terms, the Portland State alum and retired social worker had to flee her home state of Oregon, the first state in the country to pass legislation allowing terminally ill patients to choose to end their lives.

Monday, via multiple phone and Zoom interviews, Parker’s family kept her message alive a month after her death.

"There is no death with dignity for Alzheimer's in Oregon," said grandson Jordon Bocek, Joel’s brother.

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