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    Default I'll let this story speak for itself

    Community Of Caring Supports A Final Choice

    April 10, 2005
    By DAVID OWENS, And JESSE LEAVENWORTH Courant Staff Writers CORNWALL -- John Welles had come to an open door in the late spring of last year.

    He stood at the threshold, a connoisseur of fine meats, vegetable grower, master fixer of anything mechanical, accumulator, giver, self-reliant Connecticut Yankee. He was, a friend said, "an unstoppable force of nature," 6 feet, 3 inches tall, 250 pounds, a man who would spread his arms and shout skyward on a beautiful day, "Thank you, Lord."

    Now, in the late spring of 2004, the 66-year-old Welles had been reduced by cancer that had rotted his spine, numbed his legs and blurred his sight.

    With the promise only of further failure, Welles feared becoming a lump in the bed, a burden. "Just sort of here," as he described it in a phone conversation to a cousin on June 10. "Wondering what the hell's going down. Gray. Cold. Bleak. A bit of light. Basically gloomy. I'm wondering what? Where? How?

    "I have to work out this checking out," he told the friend, "make some sort of statement. ... I seem to have to go."

    The next morning, a fine, clear day with temperatures that would rise into the 70s, Huntington Williams came to John Welles' home. Williams expected to sit with his ailing friend, talk awhile.

    Welles had something else in mind.

    Williams didn't walk away, and he didn't try to hide his role in what happened next.

    The decisions made by both men that day have sent ripples from Cornwall through Superior Court, through the state Capitol and through the minds of anyone who has ever thought about what he or she might do if faced with so difficult a decision.






    John T. Welles' roots ran deep in Cornwall, according to family and friends who agreed to talk about his life and his illness.

    His family owned property in the woodsy, Litchfield County town, and after a tour in the Marine Corps and college he settled into a simple life far different from his upbringing as the child of a New York banker.

    Welles grew up in Darien and attended the finest boarding schools, including Hotchkiss in Salisbury. Despite a passion to understand how things worked, he did little to satisfy the demands of his teachers.

    "He systematically failed all his courses with malice aforethought," his sister, Barbara Welles Bartlett of Fairfield, recalled.

    John Welles eventually obtained an equivalency diploma while in the Marines, and then a college degree in English.

    By the mid-1960s, he had settled into the pattern that would define his life: summers in Cornwall, Thanksgiving at his sister's home and winters someplace warm. He'd stay with cousins in Antigua and friends in southern California or Hawaii. He would travel the country, often bartering his mechanical skills for meals and gasoline.

    "His idea of expenditures were new boots, new pants, new shirt and enough money to pay his taxes," his sister said.

    Welles was known as a mechanical genius. He built his Cornwall house from materials he'd recovered from two houses he took down on a nearby farm. He came by vehicles the same way. His yard was often filled with old vehicles, particularly Volkswagens and Jeeps.

    There's a story Cornwall people tell of a visit Welles made to a sunny island somewhere. He came across a broken-down Russian hovercraft. The maintenance manual was in Russian, and no one could figure out how to fix the thing. Welles not only repaired the machine, but wrote a manual, from scratch, in English, the story goes.

    Welles was generous with his skills. He was a carpenter, a mechanic, an organic farmer, an expert in alternative energy. An early riser, his door was always open to friends who stopped by to discuss their latest projects.

    Welles helped Gordon Ridgway, a longtime friend and Cornwall's first selectman, establish his farm and helped another friend, Ian Ingersoll, get started as a cabinetmaker.

    Welles had many friends, but he never married, which his sister attributes to their parents' unhappy marriage and her brother's belief that a woman wouldn't tolerate the life he'd chosen.

    "He dated some of the most spectacular women I've ever seen," Bartlett recalled. When she asked him why he didn't settle down with one, he'd respond: "She'll never want to live my life."

    Welles also had strong views on a range of issues and wasn't shy about sharing them. "People either liked him or couldn't stand him," Ridgway said.

    "Since he didn't marry, he was always right," his sister added. "There was never anybody to argue him down. He was huge, and strong in his opinions. I learned very early not to disagree."

    On April 1, 2004, Welles returned to Cornwall from Hawaii. He was suffering from back pain, but attributed it to strain as a result of fixing a tractor engine.

    By late May, however, the pain had not subsided, and other health problems were arising. As Welles' legs weakened, Ridgway talked him into going to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington. Ridgway drove, and Welles, leaning on ski poles, hobbled into the emergency room.

    Within hours, doctors discovered that Welles was suffering from advanced prostate cancer that had spread into his bones, particularly his spine. The disease, in its advanced stages, weakens the vertebrae and brings "a gnawing, agonizing, toothache kind of pain," said Dr. John Taylor, a urologic cancer specialist and assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

    Welles spent about a week at Charlotte Hungerford. The machines fascinated him and a steady stream of visitors delighted him. But the first radiation treatment was enough.

    "That's all I want," Bartlett recalled her brother saying. "I'm out of here."

    Welles went to a nursing home, but quickly grew weary of life there. Welles, Ridgway recalled, decided he didn't want to wither away in that sort of place.

    A few days into June, Welles was back at his house in the Cornwall woods. A team organized by friends Lynn Norton and Margaret Cooley provided around-the-clock care and companionship, paying Welles back for his generosity over the years. Throughout the day, people would stop by visit.

    "You wanted to soak him up, you wanted to be around," Cooley said. "There were never not people around."

    Despite difficulty walking, Welles refused to give in to the illness.

    "You had to stay out of Johnny's way," Cooley recalled. "He didn't want to be cosseted one tiny bit."

    At the same time, Welles was confronting the reality of his disease. He told everyone he would not become an invalid, reliant on others. At one point, the discussion turned to catheters. Welles said he didn't know what a catheter was.

    Norton explained it to him, and Welles laughed, saying, "No way."

    "John liked living like John," Ridgway said. "He didn't want to live as half-John. There was nothing halfway about him. He was going to end it on his terms."

    "He said to me on the phone, `I have lived a really good life and I have done what I wanted to do and I'm ready for the next phase,'" Bartlett said. "`I'm going to go while I still know what I'm doing, before this stuff gets into my head.'"

    The disease progressed rapidly that final week. Welles' vision began to blur. Bumps formed on the back of his neck. But the personality that had endeared him to so many endured. He still had his broad smile, his sense of humor, his Yankee frugality and his passion for food.

    In a June 8 conversation recorded by his cousin - transcripts of which were provided by others - he talked about a "door opening and a door closing."

    "I'm torn because there's some really good things in the icebox," he said. "I've just had a really good melon and a really good tomato. Now I just need one strawberry, one blueberry, one raspberry, one cantaloupe. I'll have one at a time. And then that's it. I can go out with a grin."

    That same day, another friend, Gary Cruse, came over and the two sang spirituals. One was "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

    But the cancer was winning. Welles knew he might soon lose control.

    "I think I'll probably do it alone," he told his cousin.

    "Not violently, because that would be cruel and unfair to everyone else. I'd like to be clear, conscious. Sit at the table and belt back a few pills. ... Then compost the corpse and divide up the tools."

    The uncertainty of pills, however, changed his mind. During his tour in the Marines, Welles had come to appreciate the efficiency of firearms.

    "A gun is a sure safe thing and ... an efficient way to painlessly kill," he told his sister.

    The evening of June 10, Lynn Norton said Welles decided June 11 would be his last day. Norton, who had the watch that night, lay with Welles in his bed, rubbing his back. The relationship, she said, was special, but strictly platonic.

    "He said, while we were lying in bed, `If I just lie here and let my breathing get really shallow, maybe I'll just slip away.'"

    Welles got up at about 12:30 a.m., had a glass of wine and smoked his pipe.






    At dawn, the birds started to sing and Welles said, "Well, it's another day. Get up and make the coffee."

    "I knew he was going to end his life that day," Norton said.

    Two men, both close friends of Welles, arrived in the morning and Welles asked one of them to retrieve a handgun that was under a chair. He wouldn't do it.

    "I couldn't do it either," Norton said.

    Huntington Williams was scheduled to take over from Norton that morning, handling the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift. It was Williams' first time on the scheduled watch, and Norton said she had never met him.

    But as soon as Williams arrived, the two began talking about Welles' decision to end his life.

    Welles had been close friends with Williams' wife, Rebecca, a Cornwall native who was active in town affairs. Welles watched as she endured, and ultimately died of, cancer about 10 years earlier. He also saw how Williams cared for her through her ordeal.

    "That's how John knew how horrid cancer was, because of Becky," Bartlett said.

    "I don't want to live like that," Welles told his sister.

    Although by all accounts Williams didn't know about Welles' plan before that morning, Norton said she feels Williams' arrival was preordained. He was the right guy at the right time.

    "Hunt" Williams, his neighbors say, is a man who cares about people. He'd go early to the Episcopal church to turn up the thermostat. The 74-year-old retired teacher serves on the local volunteer ambulance squad and responds to almost every call.

    "No matter the time of day, no matter what the weather is, no matter what else is going on, I can count on Hunt," Skip Kosciusko, a leader of the town's ambulance corps, said.

    Added Ridgway, "Hunt isn't a guy to walk away from a difficult situation."

    But Welles wanted Norton to leave first. It was a guy thing. He was trying to make it easy for everyone, Norton said. She gave him a big hug and a kiss and left.

    Williams - who declined to be interviewed but whose actions that day are laid out by authorities in court records - walked Norton to her car.

    "John needs to do this," she told Williams. "Are you able to do this with him?"

    Williams said that he could "honor John's wishes."

    Williams returned to the house and the men talked some more about Welles' decision. Though weak, Welles retrieved a .38-caliber revolver from a paper bag in his bedroom.

    "The gun was in bad shape," Williams said later, according to court records. "John had a hard time getting the cylinder open, so I opened it for him. I looked through the gun to make sure it was clear and clean. I ran a bore brush through the gun to clean it. I then gave it back to him."

    Welles loaded six bullets into the gun, then asked Williams to carry it outside for him while he struggled out with his walker. After several days of gray, drizzly weather, that sky was clear and blue.

    The two men then talked about the best place to aim the weapon. Williams and Welles shook hands, and Welles lay down on the ground.

    Williams walked down the driveway.

    Welles called out, asking if Williams was still nearby.

    Williams assured Welles that he was, and, as he was about to say, "God bless," he heard the crack of a single gunshot.

    Williams walked back into the house and called 911.

    The state police, recognizing the case to be an assisted suicide, which is illegal in Connecticut, called in detectives to conduct a full investigation that resulted in a charge of second-degree manslaughter. On Thursday, Williams was granted a special form of probation in a move that largely brought the criminal phase of the story to a close.

    When police arrived on the scene that day, Williams freely answered the officers' questions and explained what happened that morning.

    He ended his statement by telling the police: "This is what John wanted. I had a comfortable feeling that this was right for him, knowing the man."
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    Dal... thanks for sharing. John Welles went out on his own terms, and the way I see it, Huntington Williams committed no crime other than respecting the wishes of his old friend.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 04-10-2005 at 05:08 PM.
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    It's illegal. If you don't like the law, change it.

    The culture of death continues.

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    I have to agree with Gonzo...the man made a decision on his own. Despite the fact that Williams gave him his gun....(it was his gun...he was allowed to have it), I think he committed no crime...

    George....I respect your opinion and value all your input....and yes...suicide is a crime....(dont really understand why...who do you arrest?)
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    dont really understand why...who do you arrest

    Williams' would've been charged under Manslaughter, 2nd degree. Same statute is normally used for drunk-driving deaths, too.

    Sec.53a-56. Manslaughter in the second degree: Class C felony. (a) A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: (1) He recklessly causes the death of another person; or (2) he intentionally causes or aids another person, other than by force, duress or deception, to commit suicide.

    Williams' was granted "Accelerated Pretrial Rehabilitation" which means if as long as he doesn't committ a felony in the next year, the record will be expunged of him ever even being charged.

    APR is something that's at the Judge's discretion, which either the defense or prosecution (!?) can ask him to do. It's a one time shot, can't have a prior felony conviction, certain juvenile convictions, or a previous APR, crime is a "Class C" felony or less, and the Judge has to believe you probably won't offend in the future, and the Judge has to exercise discretion to determine the "violation are not of a serious nature." Reading the paper earlier this week, it seems the Judge in the case thought this case came as close as you possibly could to the "serious" without crossing it.

    Usually it's something the defense will ask for, but the State's Attorney may ask for it if they have a case they're nervous about taking before a jury (any body want to bet this had "Jury Nullification" written all over it?) or the media coverage from the case, but they don't want to outright dismiss either.
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    Thanks dal....interesting... But my quesiton about who do you arrest is more related to successful suicides where no other person has knowledge or assists.. I know it is related to insurance policies and stuff.
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    Checking our (Connecticut) statutes again, there's certainly no law against it (suicide). And I couldn't see anyone using common law for felony prosecutions today!

    Assisting suicide would fall under the statute I posted above.

    You *may* use "reasonable physical force" to stop a suicide attempt (that's specifically authorized by the same statute as using deadly force to defend someone), but there's no obiligation on the general public to do so.
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    There is no culture of death anymore today than there ever has been.

    People have been making these hard decsions about removing life support for decades in the privacy of their own families following the wishes of their loved ones. As I stated in another post I am medical power of attorney for my mother and I guarantee you her wishes will be followed, to the letter.

    Suicide and assisted suicide are also nothing new. And yes I know suicide is illegal in most states. Seems incredibly nonsensical to me. As if the scenario of the deeply depressed or terminally ill individual contemplating suicide being swayed against it because it is against the law is plausible at all. How incredibly idiotic.

    The sad fact in society today is that in many cases the choice of the individual on how they choose to live or die is only another chance for some group to bring out the media and prophesize about the end times because of one persons decision. And then when that case is over they dance off into the sunset looking for somebody elses life to turn into a media circus.

    I am disgusted at my government for attempting to circumvent the judiciary in congress. I am more conservative and actually voted for Bush but this issue has me more than a little confused. I thought the Republicans were for less governmental intrusion into people's lives. I guess that's only if it isn't high profile and a chance to garner votes. Sad and desperate looking.

    I find absolutely nothing wrong with what Mr Welles decision was and nothing wrong with Mr Williams getting the gun for him. It was Mr Welles choice and if he could have gotten the gun himself he would have done it as soon as he was alone anyways.

    I understand if you don't like his choice. It wouldn't be mine either, at least at this point in my life. But neither anyone here or myself is Mr welles and knew how much he had suffered. I lost a brother to suicice after many years of alcoholism and depression. I also lost a very good friend to suicide after his wife was killed in a car accident. Do I agree with their decisions? Honestly no. But it wasn't up to me. It was their personal choice. Plain and simple.

    What ever happened to letting people choose their own destiny?

    FyredUp

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    And yes I know suicide is illegal in most states.
    Actually, I think it's only a handful of states now that I've been googling it...it's *assisting* a suicide that is illegal usually.

    I am more conservative...I thought the Republicans were for less governmental intrusion into people's lives.

    And I think most conservatives where appalled by it. One the most conservative members of the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blasted Congress' and President Bush's actions as unconstitutional on many levels, in many ways, and thoroughly against the spirit of the founding fathers in both seperation of branches of government as well as the Federal system, and that the Schiavo case was as far away as you could get from Judicial Activism but instead was a very strict interpretation of the law. Very good concurence that he wrote! http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/s...ca11rhrng2.pdf -- it's long, but a good read IMHO.

    The actions of the Republicans in the Schiavo case are best described as Right Wing.

    I don't like "Liberal" or "Conservative" for politicians usually. Most in Washington are "Left" or "Right" for two reasons.

    One, they're willing to bend their "beliefs" (and I use the word with hesitation) like Gumby to meet political situations

    Two, they both like power and will expand government spending and regulations to get it. They spend it in different places, or excercise the power in different ways, but they both "left" and "right" want power and enjoy the control that taxes give them.

    However, everything comes back into balance. I think this finally gave Tom Delay enough rope to hang himself with. The next President is most likely going to be a moderate Republican (McCain will only be two years older than Reagan was...) or at worse a Democrat playing to centrist themes (as irritating as Hillary can be, at least she's telling the party they'll get their asses handed to them again if they don't move towards the center)
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    (as irritating as Hillary can be, at least she's telling the party they'll get their asses handed to them again if they don't move towards the center)
    That's not what she is saying at all. she is saying. "We need to do or say anything we can to get back in there. Let's makle believe we are centrist until we get back in power. Then we'll fix everything".

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    You put it better than I did George!
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    Are there those who believe that by choosing to die on your own terms; be it with a gun, rope or car exhaust that we are interfering with God's will?
    If we have a right to life, then why don't we have a right to die?
    If you clearly spell out in a document what your final wishes are, then who are we to say "no; you can't do it like that".
    This all goes back to wanting to blame someone or to blame a culture, philosophy, religion or a political party for what is the basic right of every person old enough to make an informed decision.
    As firefighters and this might be a stretch for some of you, when you go into a burning structure to attempt a rescue, could that not be construed as interfering with God's will? I mean; how far do you want to take the argument?
    Terry Schiavo's case had nothing to do with the law. It had everything to do with what were the final wishes of her, what was communicated to her spouse and did he fulfill her wishes? The only reason it became a circus is because the parents forgot that they had given up their "rights" to Terri when they "gave" her in marriage.
    My final wishes are documented. They will be followed and no one will be charged afterwards. My decision. Period.
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    No "Culture of Death" Huh

    http://www.cafepress.com/goodwinart.19008767
    One fruitcake with a cafepress account does not make a culture of death.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Originally posted by CaptainGonzo


    One fruitcake with a cafepress account does not make a culture of death.
    It is one more example of it.

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