Joe Cruzan didn't want his daughter to become the focus of a national debate. But she did.
Anti-euthanasia activists didn't want Nancy Cruzan's life-sustaining feeding tube removed. But it was.Town leaders didn't want their cozy Ozarks community, which promotes its fall "Apple Butter Makin' Days," to become a news dateline about protests against stopping Ms. Cruzan's food and water. But it did.
No one got what he or she wanted out of Nancy Cruzan's sad saga.
Joe Cruzan did get a court decision allowing for the removal of his daughter's feeding tube removed, but he said after her funeral Friday: "I would prefer to let my daughter die and let somebody else be this trailblazer. Our courage came from the young lady we just buried."
For him, there will be no more one-sided conversations with his 33-year-old daughter, who died Wednesday after spending nearly eight years in a vegetative state because of a devastating car crash.
He used to sit in Ms. Cruzan's quiet room at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center here, talking to her about legal action, updating family news, explaining why he wanted to help her life end.
Encouragement came from supportive letters.
"The letters have just been pouring in," Cruzan said. "The biggest part of the people support us. I'm thankful and appreciate that."
Now, the Cruzan family wants privacy and rest.
Their home telephone number has been changed. No longer will they make the drive from Carterville to Mount Vernon that helped put 38,000 miles on a 2-year-old car. Cruzan says the vehicle is on its third tape deck, so often have his daughter's favorite songs been played during the drive.
"To the ones who maybe didn't understand or didn't agree, we did what we felt we had to do," Cruzan said. "We appreciate their prayers."
Those who didn't agree converged on Mount Vernon as Ms. Cruzan was dying. They camped at the state-run hospital, carrying signs urging the Cruzans to reconnect the feeding tube. Some spent days in custody after trying to enter Ms. Cruzan's room, identifying themselves only as "Nancy Cruzan."
The demonstrators from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia and other states, "should have been run out of town on a rail," said Gene Burk, a barber for 24 years in Mount Vernon.
"That family has gone through eight years of pure hell," he said between haircuts Friday at his shop near the county square. "It was a really sad situation. I think the town is ready for it to be over."
Opponents of removing Ms. Cruzan's food and water went to state and federal courts, but failed in their efforts to reconnect it. One warned that the state had slipped "a big notch closer to hell" because of the tube's removal.
Kathy Fairchild, president-elect of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, was more immediately concerned about her town's image than Missouri's status in the hereafter.
Editor of the weekly Lawrence County Record, she was soliciting support Friday for an advertisement commending efforts of the hospital, whose 465-person payroll makes it Mount Vernon's largest employer.
The ad omits mention the Cruzan case.
"But sure, that's the inspiration. It's disgusting to have all this attention and to have our friends and neighbors called murderers," Ms. Fairchild said Friday.
"It's time to get back to normal. It's like our paper said in an editorial: `We're ready to drop off the map."'