January 3, 2004 by

John Pridonoff


Categories: Medicine, Religious Leaders

Based on his experiences as a grief and crisis counselor, John A. Pridonoff was convinced that people with terminal illnesses should have the right to end their own lives.
“I have been faced too many times with instances of people dying, stripped of their dignity, integrity and sense of self-respect. It’s not that I feel terminally ill people should do this but that terminally ill should be able to discuss this without the intrusion of organized religion or organized government beyond the appropriate safety structures within the law,” he once told the Los Angeles Times.
Pridonoff earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Los Angeles, and received a doctorate in thanatology and a master’s in theology from the Colgate Rochester Divinity School in New York. After he was ordained as a minister in the Congregationalist Christian Church, he became a volunteer counselor and chaplain at Grossmont Hospital in San Diego.
For a quarter of a century, Pridonoff worked as the executive director of The Counseling Center in San Diego, a nonprofit organization that provides trauma, grief and crisis counseling to medical professionals. He also edited The Forum, the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s quarterly newsletter.
Then in 1992, Pridonoff was selected to be the new executive director of the Hemlock Society, an organization that lobbies for right-to-die laws for the terminally ill. During his three-year tenure, he pushed for a constitutional amendment permitting “death with dignity,” and fought for the passage of Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Oregon is the only state in America that allows physician-assisted suicide.
Pridonoff died on Nov. 24 from heart failure. He was 62.
[Update – Aug. 17, 2008 – Age has been corrected.]

8 Responses to John Pridonoff

  1. Scott Judd

    I worked for John Pridonoff for 3 years at the Hemlock Society in Eugene, OR.
    I just stumbled upon this obituary today by sheer coincidence, after uttering the phrase “now is the time”, which was one of Mr. Pridonoff’s chosen themes for a past Hemlock Society conference, and then spontaneously googling his name to see what came back. This obituary was the first entry.
    I am sad to hear of John’s passing. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since I left Eugene in 1995, but he was a good man with a big heart and nothing but the best intentions. Thank you for posting notice of his life and passing.
    Scott Judd
    Chicago, IL

  2. Ben

    Sitting on the couch with my family made me worried.When my dad said he was gone I felt that I fell apart.I had 3 uncles.One very athletic,one very nice and caring, but uncle John was different.He was a little of everything.He will always be remembered as well as his still living dog Mr. Bart , who lives with a family that took care of him.From what I know, I knew UJ(uncle John) better than everyone in my househld family exept for my dad.My dad told me that UJ would tease him all the time and tell him that they had a long lost brother named Jim.I loved his jokes, his kindness, his additude, his everything.The only thing I dont like is that he is gone.thank you.

  3. Sally West

    I’m thrilled to see that my brother John is still remembered. He loved life and helping people. His smile, laugh and enthusiasm will always be in my thoughts, awa, his leo the Lion roar.
    He would be so honored that his nephew Ben has such a deep love for him; because he loved Ben so much and his only wish was that he would always be remembered….
    John truly took a part of me when he died…I can’t tell you when the hurt goes away, because it hasn’t…..

  4. Erica Pridonoff-Zacarias

    Today is August 11, 2008, 8 days after my brother John would have been 67. The bios on John are incorrect…he died at age 62, not 64. Be that as it may, I am/was John’s older sister, by 18 months. We were very tight, all our lives and there for each other in the good times and the challenging times.
    I don’t know who put up this blog, but I am happy that it is here and wanted to thank the creator of it.
    As those before me have stated, John was an amazing man. He had the ability to be there for anyone who needed him. He was a wonderful counselor, advisor, pastor, writer, and always fair minded in his assessment of situations. He left us all too soon, but I know that he is well remembered and loved by his family and friends, and that he left a powerful legacy in what he taught and what he wrote.
    Loving him always and forever, and until we meet again, his sister Erica

  5. Carolyn Frink- Rickert

    Hello, I just found this today and was so sorry to hear of Johns’ passing. I knew John as a young man and he was larger than life even then. I remember his hearty laugh, his love of life and the strength in his eyes. A piece of my childhood is gone but his joy in life stays with me. I have not seen him in years but he was often thought of. My love to the family.

  6. Norman Jones

    If this the JoHn Pridonoff that lived in San Marino with his parents, and worked at Pasadena YMCA Camp Bluff Lake in the early 60s, he was a great friend and advisor when I was a young counselor at the camp. I was at hie ordination in Los Angeles, and admired him greatly. I am very sad that he has passed, and would greatly appreciate hearing from his brother Charlie.

  7. Jerry Crouch

    John Pridonoff was a wonderful man. I miss him and assumed he was dead, but did not know until today. His soul is such that I feel I will be touched again by his spirit. He did leave all to soon. Anyone with a greater connection than I had, that could communicate with me about John would be appreciated. He was a great man.
    Jerry Crouch, JCrouch56@cox.net or Jerry@GTMStores.net

  8. Dennis Roberts

    I too came across this blog by a Google search. Just that I would remember John is an indication of how special he was. You see, I haven’t seen John since I was 12 years old, 45 years ago. John wouldn’t know who I was but he touched my life when I was a kid. Before he was a Counselor or Minister, in his 20’s, he worked for the YMCA at a summer camp near Big Bear Lake, Ca. I was just a kid but he stood out as just a great guy. He had this big smile and wonderful laugh. Even at that young age he took this assignment of being responsible for about 300 kids and made it such fun. It’s hard to imagine that he later had so much to do with death and dying.
    When a family looses someone, that person is always missed and special. In reading these blogs he was Uncle John to the family. But he really was an extrodinary person, even to those of us who barely new him. He touched our lives and made us better by the example he set. I’m sorry that he didn’t live longer.

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