Friends start 'Free Dr. Jack' letter campaign

The Oakland Press (Oakland County, Michigan)
Sunday, April 11, 2004

By TRACY WARD of The Oakland Press

On this day, they're at Marinelli's restaurant in Troy, talking over
hamburgers and coffee, passing "Free Dr. Jack" bumper stickers up and
down the long table.

"We've been quiet because we didn't want to interrupt the legal end of
it," said Zorob "Zip" Kabodian, 78, a retired aircraft mechanic who
lives in Rochester Hills. "And now we can't do any harm. We're going to
let people know we care. Jack will know we care."

The group, which still meets weekly after all these years, has great
memories of Kevorkian. The Pontiac neighborhood where they grew up, near
Franklin and Harrison streets, was mixed with new immigrants. It was the
1930s and everybody, thanks to the Depression, was broke, but everybody
was in the same boat.

"We didn't have bicycles," Sally Kabodian said. "I can remember a
neighbor did, and the kids would get up early and line up at her house
for a chance to ride it."

They were the children of Armenians who came to America after the
Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million people were killed by
Ottoman Turks.

As children, most of them didn't speak English when they started at
Wilson and Bagley Elementary schools - buildings that were torn down
long ago.

Kids played "Kick-the-Can" in the street. They remember the time Jack
Kevorkian tried to make a waterwheel in the creek at Pontiac's Dodge
Park or worked on an electrical bicycle.

"I remember walking - six of us walking down the streets of Pontiac at
night, talking about philosophy, life, everything," said Vanig
Godoshian, 71, a retired communications engineer from Sylvan Lake.
"Everybody looked up to Jack."

"He was so smart, so smart," said Sally Kabodian.

Other friends remember Kevorkian as warm-hearted but a loner.

Some group members are more zealous than others. The members - faithful
Catholic or Armenian Orthodox who are proud, as many Armenians are, that
their country was the first to adopt Christianity in 301 - even have
different views on assisted suicide.

If he is released, would they want him involved in more assisted
suicides, something Kevorkian has said he wouldn't do?

"Jack keeps his word," said one group member. "He would never disappoint
his friends."

"I wouldn't want him to," said Zoe Dakesian, 81, whose late husband,
Walter, grew up with Kevorkian in Pontiac.

Martin Krikorian, 78, a retired Oakland County mechanic, said he's
willing to help.

"Well, he's Armenian," he said, giving a little shrug. "I believe in his
work."

Kabodian said Kevorkian has paid his debt to society.

"He's paid his price. It's time for him to be released, to have a little
peace and quiet in his later years," he said.

"He shouldn't have tried to be his own lawyer," said another friend,
shaking his head.

"He's doing the right thing," said Nick Markarian, 73, of Warren. "If
people are sick, why are they going to suffer? The patient asks him to
save him so they don't suffer no more."

"There are worse crimes now," Zoe Dakesian said.

Godoshian said his friends asked Kevorkian not to push so hard, but he's
hard-headed and once he makes up his mind, he's immovable.

The Kabodians said the group will mail letters to family and friends, to
people on their Christmas lists, asking for support.

Zip Kabodian holds up an envelope. On it, he has sketched a
jack-in-the-box with the words "Free Dr. Jack" written underneath.

"He puts that on every letter, every bill we send out," said his wife,
with a smile.

"He's warm-hearted, compassionate and wants to help people," Kabodian
said. "It's time for him to be released."


PHOTO CAPTION: Archie Hovsepian, 81, of Waterford Township (from left);
John Kouzoujian, 77, of Troy; and Martin Krikorian, 78, of Troy (far
right) ~K friends and supporters of Jack Kevorkian ~K meet at Marinelli's
of Troy to discuss a campaign to free their old friend. -- The Daily
Oakland Press / GARY MALERBA

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