Scathing obituary tells of abuse, highlights fight against child abuse

Scathing obituary: Now circling the globe on the Internet, the obituary was written by Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick's adult children, whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties back in the 1980s.

By , Associated Press

Anyone expecting a sweet remembrance of the life and times of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick was in for a surprise if they opened the obituary pages this week in the local newspaper.

Now circling the globe on the Internet, the obit was written by Johnson-Reddick's adult children, whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties back in the 1980s.

Johnson-Reddick died at a Reno nursing home Aug. 30 at the age of 79, according to her daughter, Katherine Reddick, 58, now a psychology consultant for a school district outside Austin, Texas.

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Katherine Reddick said she decided to share the story of their painful physical and mental abuse after consulting with her brother, Patrick Reddick, 58, who lives in Minden south of Carson City. They said they grew up with four siblings in a Carson City orphanage after they were removed from their mother's home and had been estranged from her for more than 30 years.

"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," the obit said.

Six of Johnson-Reddick's eight children were admitted to the Nevada Children's Home from 1963 to 1964 after they endured regular beatings, sometimes with a metal-tipped belt, and other abuse at the hands of their mother, Patrick Reddick said. He said he's had phone calls from "all over the world" about the obituary.

"Everything in there was completely true," he told The Associated Press on Thursday, describing her as a "wicked, wicked witch."

He said they wanted to "shame her a little bit" but that the "main purpose for putting it in there was to bring awareness to child abuse ... shame child abuse overall."

"People doing that right now, they can read that obit and think," said Patrick Reddick, who last saw his mother more than three decades ago.

"I'm a survivor," he said. "I count my blessings every day. Especially for my wife."

Reddick and his sister, now 57, testified before the 1987 Legislature on bills to make courts give equal consideration to the best interest of a child when terminating parental rights.

Former state Sen. Sue Wagner, who authored the legislation that ultimately was signed into law, remembers meeting with them at the time. She told KOLO-TV in Reno that it was one of the reasons Nevada became one of few states to address the issue at the time.

"I'm very happy that they now are free of their mother," Wagner said.

The obituary was printed in Tuesday's editions of the Reno Gazette-Journal and appeared on RGJ.com after it was submitted through a self-service online portal.

John Maher, president and publisher of the newspaper, said in a "note to readers" that the paper had "removed the online listing of this obituary as we continue our review of the circumstances surrounding its placement."

Little else is known about the woman. The Reno newspaper reported that she lived in a mobile home with 15 cats up until she was hospitalized in May.

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