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Kevorkian's courage remembered at service

TROY, Mich. -- Friends, family and supporters gathered Friday to pay tribute to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, remembering him for his courageous devotion to the cause of physician-assisted suicide, which cost him his freedom late in life.

More than 150 people attended the chapel service at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in suburban Detroit before Kevorkian was laid to rest. He died last week at age 83 of a pulmonary blood clot.

Kevorkian's stunning claim to have assisted in more than 130 deaths of ill people in the 1990s brought him worldwide notoriety, but those who stood behind his American flag-draped coffin Friday spoke also of his softer, less public side.

A niece, Ava Janus, said Kevorkian had deep respect for anyone who was competent at their craft, even a "good chimney sweep." She said he loved to talk about the origin of words, favored Classical and Big Band Era music and was loyal to the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

A friend, Ruth Holmes, recalled Kevorkian arriving at her home with just a toothbrush and fresh underwear to escape media attention in 1998 after he assisted in the death of Thomas Youk, a man with Lou Gehrig's disease. He stayed with her family for six months. It was video of Youk's death aired by CBS' "60 Minutes" that eventually led to Kevorkian being convicted of second-degree murder. "Few men are willing to brave . . . the wrath of society," Holmes said. "That was our dear friend, Jack Kevorkian."

The coffin bore the flag to signify his service in the Korean War.

Kevorkian's so-called suicide machine injected lethal drugs. He helped people die in their homes, motels and in the back of his rusty Volkswagen van and often took the bodies to hospital emergency rooms.

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