methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Jim Goodsell holding the leash of one of his wife Dee’s noble dogs. Photo courtesy of daughter Ann Goodsell.

Jim Goodsell
Face of suicide

Jim Goodsell died by his own hand at age 86 of a drug and alcohol overdose, leaving his three daughters and dozens of local friends to mark his passing at a memorial celebration at his home in Twisp in the summer of 2006. It was no secret to those who knew him that he had no intention of becoming a helpless old man who couldn’t live on his own. His story is included here because it raises questions about how elders struggle with aging. 

Jim was a lifelong wordsmith who at age 82 became the curmudgeonly proofreader at the Methow Valley News. He also was a passionate solver and creator of crossword puzzles. At age 84 one of his puzzles was published in the New York Times – on a Wednesday, which meant the editor thought it was of medium difficulty. At age 79, he started studying Homeric Greek.

Jim Goodsell making a winter climb of Mt. Hood in 1965. Photo courtesy of daughter Kate Marquez.

Earlier in life he had been a newspaper reporter and editor, had worked for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, been a foreign service officer and had worked in Australia and Milan, Italy.

A mountain climber in younger days, Jim received an award in 1967 from the Mazamas, a mountaineering club in Oregon, for reaching the summit of all 16 major Northwest peaks. Two years earlier he received an award from the same group for climbing seven peaks in the Oregon Cascades.

Jim had developed some physical challenges in the three years after his wife Dee died of illness in 2003. But he bought a set of trekking poles to help his balance and continued to exercise. He also took some short trips. Friends noticed he had started drinking more shortly before his death. But somehow it seemed premature for a man still so engaged in life to call it quits.

Jim and his wife were members of the Hemlock Society USA, one of the earliest organizations to support the right-to-die and assisted suicide, and they had long thought about what they would do. Citing the achievements of the group he founded, Derek Humphry wrote in 2005 that the group had educated and advised "thousands of dying people to know how to bring about their peaceful ends when dying, trapped in a ruined body, or just plain terminally old, frail, and tired of life."

Apparently, Jim Goodsell was one of them.


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