Former governor Booth Gardner died from complications of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 76. Gardner was the 18th governor of Washington State.
Gardner first ran for Governor in 1984. At the time, hardly anyone knew who he was. But that changed quickly. He went on to become a two-time governor.
Gardner was also considered one of the most popular politicians in Washington state history. The former governor left a lasting legacy on the state with his advocacy for health care, education, social services, and the environment. Following his two terms, he also became an advocate for the state’s “Death with Dignity” campaign.
Booth Gardner’s argument for the campaign resonated with many residents. As a result, the act was passed in 2008 and Washington became the first state to allow doctors help terminally ill patients die.
The former governor’s daughter, Gail Gant, released a statement about his death, saying:
“We’re very sad to lose my father, who had been struggling with a difficult disease for many years, but we are relieved to know that he’s at rest now and his fight is done.”
Booth Gardner was an enigma to many people. He won in 1984 as a Democrat, despite Ronald Reagan’s landslide win. He spoke with a squeaky voice that several people likened to Elmer Fudd on helium. He would also sneak away from his State Capitol security detail to grab a hamburger.
He was also known for ousting Washington State’s last Republican governor. He had a heart for youth and recovering addicts and showed his support by volunteering and donating money. As the heir to a Weherhaeuser fortune, Gardner was able to donate to whatever cause he supported. It also allowed him to donate $500,000 to his own gubernatorial campaign after being roughed up by his primary opponent, Jim McDermott.
But despite his successes, the former governor was never completely self confident. Booth Gardner spent several years trying to prove to himself that he was worthy of his success. He confessed on election night when he was celebrating his win that he believed God had a plan for him. He added that he hoped he was worthy of it.
Booth Gardner’s efforts with the “Death with Dignity” measure were put on film in an Oscar-nominated short documentary called, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner.
Former governor Booth Gardner leaves behind one daughter, a son, and eight grandchildren. Memorial donations for Gardner’s family may be sent to Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation 400 Mercer St. No. 504, Seattle, WA, 98109.