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Guy shoots himself in head, gets 34-paragraph WashPost obituary because “death with dignity”

June 22, 2014

Annals of the “right to die”:

The year was 1975, and [Alex] Fraser, a tall, lean man who drove about town in a golden Mercedes-Benz convertible with the license plate ENJOY, envisioned an alternative institution of higher learning.

His would be a school that would teach skills such as making pizza dough, playing chess, sailing, the benefits of putting money into real estate over diamonds, and meeting and getting along with others. In other words, the fundamental techniques of survival.


Mr. Fraser’s idea morphed into the “Open University” of Washington, a seat-of-the-pants learning institution with no campus, no degrees, no sports teams, and an eclectic curriculum and faculty that offered short-term, non-credit courses on just about anything that might interest anyone, from better sex to avoiding parking tickets.

He sold Open University for his start-up expenses almost immediately after liftoff, but the idea proved to be a winner. The next owner helped it grow to 40,000 students with such courses as “Parrot Psychology,” “How to Marry Money” and “How to Be Single and Jewish in Washington . . . And Not Have Your Mother Worry,” and then sold Open University in 1985. It shuttered about a year later.

Over the years, he chased a variety of other dreams, most of which were motivated by a desire to meet people, especially attractive women, according to his daughter, Alexa Fraser. That’s why he started Open University, she said…. He also founded a Georgetown art gallery in an effort to meet women.


On June 7, he took his own life. Ninety years old and debilitated with Parkinson’s disease,  Mr. Fraser told his family he wanted to control the time and manner of his exit. He was a member of the Hemlock Society, the right-to-die organization, and he was a committed believer in death with dignity.

The office of the Maryland Medical Examiner said he died of a gunshot wound to the head at his home in Garrett Park, Md. The death was officially ruled a suicide.

“He was not going out a minute earlier than he had to,” his daughter said, “but he did not want to end helpless and incapacitated in an institution. I am very proud of him for doing what he did.”


His marriage to Haynes Reynolds ended in divorce. Their daughter, Alexa Fraser of Rockville, and a grandson are his only immediate survivors.

“He knew the marriage was a mistake after two years, but he was married for about 10 years,” his daughter said. “He wasn’t the marrying kind.”

Uh, tell me again why this guy merited a 34-paragraph obituary in the Washington Post? Because he was an old hippie? Because his marriage was a bust and so were his businesses? Oh, I know. We love it when people blast their brains out and leave an appalling spectacle for the unfortunate people who discover their bodies afterwards. It’s called “death with dignity.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen


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