I was working the evening shift on “4-East,” which was the locked adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Saint Francis Hospital back then. I was a Licensed Psychiatric Technician. The “charge nurse” R.N. that evening was Shirley. I have long forgotten her last name. She was a friend of Michael Redding from his home state of Texas. At some point during the shift, she asked me to come into the “back” offices where the psychiatrists saw their patients. There was also a small staff lounge there. She brought me into the staff lounge and told me that she had received a phone call from my family in Washington. She told me my father had been shot. She told me he was dead. I started crying and saying “no, no, no.” I was in shock. My father had lived a somewhat reckless life and his being shot almost seemed inevitable in some ways but I still couldn’t believe it. I was allowed to leave work and I went home to my apartment on Haight Street.
In those days, airlines had what they called “bereavement” fares in which you would get a lower fare but needed to show the airline that you attended a funeral. I booked a flight that day and I can’t remember if it was for the same day or the next day. Regardless, I was quickly in Toppenish, where other family members were gathering. I was taken to the funeral home where I had seen a dead body once before when I was younger and Rudy Bergen had taken me to the funeral home when I body was on display but this was the first family member I had ever seen in a casket. I was angry.
It just seemed so unnecessary. I just wanted to shout at my father. Why did he have to live such a reckless life that would lead to this?
He had been shot by his third wife, Deanna. I had meant her once before, when I had visited Toppenish. She was about the same age as my sister, Darlene, if I remember correctly. She was an alcoholic like my father and their relationship had been a violent one just like my dad’s relationships with Irene and my mom. Of course, my mom had left. Irene stayed for many years and both she and my dad had physical scars from that relationship.
Deanna had apparently taken a younger lover from whom she attained a pistol. The story I was told was that my dad was having breakfast and reading the newspaper and she walked in with the pistol and said something to the effect of, “You son of a bitch” and then shot him. My brother, David, would be the one that cleaned up the blood after Deanna was arrested and my dad’s body was taken away.
Us kids went to the house and distributed my dads belongings among ourselves. It found out later that we should not have done that as it opened up some legal issues with Deanna. We didn’t realize that our father’s murderer would still have rights to his belongings. She would end up only serving a few months in a psychiatric facility and that was it.
The executer of my dad’s will attempted to steal his estate. We had to get another attorney to fight that attorney. It was a mess and took quite a while to resolve. We each got a share of the Brunswick which most of us eventually sold to Darlene. Since I was young and dumb, I frittered away the money, mostly on a 1 minute 16mm film about Theater Rhinoceros in San Francisco.