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Social critic Treecraft dies

Jan and Dan Treecraft are seen at their Spokane home in June 2010. (FILE)
Jan and Dan Treecraft are seen at their Spokane home in June 2010. (FILE)

He chose no cancer care; obituary bears his mark

Dan Treecraft lived his life the way he wanted. He ended it that way, too.

When diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2010, he decided against fighting the disease and began planning suicide.

He shared his decision in a Spokesman-Review story published last summer.

Early Thursday morning he died after breathing from a cylinder of nitrogen gas. Suicide is legal in Washington state and a group of close friends and family surrounded him, said his wife, Jan Treecraft.

Friends and family will bury the 62-year-old, nicknamed “Beetle,” at 10 a.m. today in the Worley Township Cemetery, where his wish to be buried in a simple pine coffin can be granted.

Treecraft embraced the role of social critic. He railed against establishment politics and corporations and was an outspoken opponent of war.

Many found him inspiring. Others disliked his demeanor.

Treecraft said he enjoyed spirited debate, and he strove to get in the last word.

He was a prolific writer on his “Dead Man Talking” blog and often contributed letters to newspaper editors.

His obituary published Friday blended his signature hilarity with irreverence that his wife called “pure Treecraft.”

With cancer symptoms worsening in recent weeks, eating had become painful for Treecraft, and he declared Monday that he was getting ready for his own funeral.

He wrote: “I feel some familiar dismay – at the thought that summer is on its way out, fall is readying to move in, and winter will be here all-too-soon for a thin-skinned boy like me.  And … I feel a mixture of both relief and uneasiness, to think that I can’t expect to have that season-turning experience again.”

Sometimes his throat would shut, and Treecraft would struggle to breathe. Jan said it was frightening and hastened his decision to die this summer.

“He began to have many more bad days than good days,” she said.

Treecraft rejected treatment for his cancer, holding to his belief that today’s medical system is run amok, an industry dominated by a perverse mantra of fighting the inevitability of death – at any cost.

Spokane police and Dr. Sally Aiken of the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office performed an hours-long investigation into the death.

“I will say that everyone who came here was lovely, kind and considerate,” said Jan, acknowledging that her husband often saved some of his sharpest barbs for police.

“Dan was a blessing,” she added, “and as I look ahead, I think, ‘Gee, life may not be as interesting.’ ”