SANDRA CHEREB, Associated Press SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The children of an abusive woman whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties wrote a scathing obituary that was published in the local newspaper — and has since become an Internet sensation.
The obituary opened with a harsh statement about the legacy of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick: “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.”
Katherine Reddick said she wrote it about her mother, who died at a Reno nursing home Aug. 30 at the age of 78.
Now a psychology consultant for a school district outside Austin, Texas, she said she decided to share the story of their painful physical and mental abuse after consulting with her brother, Patrick Reddick. 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.
“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.
Patrick Reddick said he’s had phone calls from “all over the world” after his mother’s obituary went viral.
“Everything in there was completely true,” the Minden man told The Associated Press on Thursday, describing her as a “wicked, wicked witch.” ”The main purpose for putting it in there was to bring awareness to the child abuse. And shame her a little bit.”
Patrick Reddick, 58, said he last saw his mother more than three decades ago.
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.
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 for treatment of bladder cancer.