Letter to the editor | Three tragic deaths

February 25, 2014 

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death stirred comments. Here’s another.

Prior to David Foster Wallace’s death by suicide, he was a well-known novelist (“Infinite Jest”) struggling with acute depression. The history of his treatment and failures of modern psychiatry were documented in two national magazines.

Early on, he described his suffering this way: “You are the sickness yourself. … It’s wearing your face. That’s when the BAD THING just absolutely eats you up … when you just eat yourself up. When you kill yourself. All this business about people committing suicide: We say, ‘Holy cow, we must do something to stop them!’ That’s wrong. Because all these people have by this time already killed themselves, where it really counts. … When they commit suicide, they’re just being orderly.”

Romaine Tenney was a bachelor farmer from Vermont who milked cows by hand, had no electricity, worked the fields with horses, cut firewood with ax, owned no vehicle and walked six miles to town, always smiling.

On Sept. 11, 1964, the sheriff and deputies by court order evacuated his property to make way for Interstate 91.

They emptied the barn and shed of tools, harnesses and wagons as Tenney watched.

At 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, the night sky was aglow. Romaine’s house, shed and barn were blazing. When neighbors got there, the doors were spiked shut.

Tenney had said, “I was born here and I will die here.”

A tragic yet honorable story of “progress” and “principles” colliding.

Ron Kanagy, Potters Mills

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