Legislature honors late Gov. Booth Gardner



OLYMPIA — Lawmakers on Friday held a memorial on the Senate floor for the late Gov. Booth Gardner, a former two-term Democratic governor who died last week.

The Senate on Friday passed a resolution honoring his service to the state, a day after it was passed by the House. A joint session of the House and Senate then paid tribute to Gardner, who died March 15 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 76.

Several members of his family watched from the public gallery in the Senate as lawmakers spoke. Earlier, flags at the Capitol were lowered to half-staff.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said that Gardner “always offered hope.”

“I think the one thing that really stands out with Gov. Gardner was leadership,” he said. “It wasn’t the kind of leadership where you went and you took a public poll, it was the kind of leadership where you did what you did because it was the right thing to do.”

Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, cited his humble but generous nature, and remembered, “boy, he had a great smile.”

The millionaire heir to the Weyerhaeuser timber fortune led the state from 1985 to 1993 following terms as Pierce County executive, state senator and business school dean. He was the state’s 19th governor.

Since then, he had worked as a U.S. trade ambassador in Geneva, in youth sports and for a variety of philanthropic works. But his biggest political effort in his later years was his successful “Death with Dignity” campaign in 2008 that ultimately led to the passage of the assisted suicide law that mirrored one in place in Oregon since 1997.

The law allows terminally ill adults with six months or less left to live to request a lethal dose of medication from their doctors.

Gardner knew that he wouldn’t qualify to use the law because Parkinson’s disease itself, while incurable, is not fatal. But at the time, he said his worsening condition made him an advocate for those who want control over how they die.

“We’ve heard about his final struggle,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle. “He took that pain and he thought about how he could help other people, how he could make death and the process of dying be a process of dignity.”

The memorial ended with Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, playing the bagpipe song Highland Cathedral on his Scottish smallpipes.

A public memorial service is set to be held on Saturday, March 30, at the Memorial Fieldhouse at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. A private funeral was to be held separately.