Speaking Very Ill of the Dead

In our “Legacy of a Jerk” podcast, we discussed (among other things) the injunction against speaking ill of the dead. It featured an interview with a daughter of a woman named Carole Roberson, whose obituary stated that she was “a difficult mother and a horrendous mother-in-law.” That said, the obituary also said that “she will STILL be missed.”

Several readers have now sent us this A.P. article about an obituary for a Nevada woman named Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick. She makes Carole Roberson sounds like an angel.

“On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children,” the scathing obituary begins. … [It] 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. …

“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,” the obit said. “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.”

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.”

Thanks to all who sent the link.


Of course this sounds terrible but, surely it should be evident that this woman was not well at all.

It's becoming clear to many people just how much certain genetic mutations in the area of methylation affect overall physical and thereby mental health. Essentially these mutations mean that some people have severe difficulties in absorbing vital nutrients such as folate(vitamin b9), b12 and b6. Deficiencies of these vitamins severely impact brain development with particular effects on behaviour.

Once these people understand the simple fact that their mother was ill and her behaviour was not entirely her fault, and that she wasn't evil, I think they will have an entirely different perspective. I know it's helped me to understand mine.

Research the methylation cycle and genetic defects in genes such as MTHFR, MTRR, COMT, MAO. They can get themselves tested for these things too which will benefit their long term health.



Understand? Perhaps.

Accept? Less likely.

Forgive? Less so.

Just because we can find a reason things happened, doesn't make them un-happen or remove the damage from their happening.

It is possible in this instance that part of the treatment for child abuse will be psychiatric care for abusers, or that more testing will be done on childhood health issues that can result in aberrant adult behaviour.

That doesn't remove the damage already done, and difficulty doesn't remove culpability.


I completely understand the call to arms against child abuse, but as a born and raised Las Vegan, I hope this won't be added to our list of famous 'known-as' in Nevada...marriage capital, divorce capital, abuse capital?? :(

Eric M. Jones

There is some Buddhist notion that evil can lead to good, but I favor the Olde West sentiment, "She (he) needs hanging "


Don't treat people like garbage and maybe someone will write a nice obit for you. If you choose to be a bad person, well, reference the above article...


Interesting....I guess if you make it a cause it makes it all right. But you can simply detail the acts of abuse and the lack of protection by authorities without all the "wicked" stuff and hatin'.....that discredits the victims in my eyes.

The way this woman's children speak so vitriolically, I sort of doubt they are Mother Theresa during conflict situations in their own home.

brian t

I prefer the term coined by John Oliver (on the Bugle podcast, long before he hosted the Daily Show): the "f**keulogy"!

caleb b

I prefer when people are honest, even in death. In my uncle's eulogy, I told the audience of about 5, "he wasn't well liked, but you people were more stubborn than he was mean, so I guess that is why you are here."


What if obituaries were regularly checked & truth-tested. Then mandatory publication of amended obits.


Jerimiah Goodnight

Good for them, allowing a release of some of the fear, hatred and emotions held for so long. It also provides a public forum to bring up child abuse to help try to prevent it.