CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Two well-known community leaders sent copies of their obituaries to media outlets, then apparently committed double suicide on New Year's Day.
Friends said they would remember Ethan and Helen Levine (search) for their kindness, community involvement and sense of humor.
Laramie County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the couple's home Tuesday afternoon after copies of their obituary were received in the mail by the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Casper Star-Tribune, the sheriff's department and others.
Laramie County coroner Bill Ryan said Wednesday that the Levines were found in their car in the garage, and that they appeared to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The obituary stated the couple died together "through united self-deliverance."
In a separate letter sent to many of the couple's friends, they wrote, "We probably cannot adequately describe all the reasons for our decision. Since it is very complex and there are too many. Everybody has a 'list.' Ours was becoming too much."
The letter went on to describe health-related problems — Ethan's multiple sclerosis (search) and diabetes, Helen's heart disease — with daily injections, pills, pains and failing eyesight.
"We know what we feel and why we have made this choice," the letter continued. "We also know that our decision may not be met with the same understanding by you. All we can ask is for you to respect our choice and understand this was something we both felt so strong about."
Jim Angell, director of the Wyoming Press Association (search), said he first met the couple when he moved to Cheyenne in 1985. He added he would always remember the Levines for their tremendous wit.
"They were both very, very smart debaters," he said. "If you ever got on the opposite side of a political issue, they'd talk until they wore you down."
Angell said Helen Levine, 73, put her heart and soul into whatever she did. She served as the public information officer for the Wyoming Department of Health for 12 years. She also was a regular columnist for the Casper Star-Tribune — her last column, received Tuesday, reminded readers of her support for "death with dignity" — and had written columns in the past for the Tribune-Eagle.
In a prepared statement, Freudenthal said, "I have known Ethan and Helen both for years and years and considered them friends for a long time."
Ethan Levine, 50, served on many community boards and civic organizations, including the editorial board of the Tribune-Eagle. He had been manager of Frontier Mall.
Sheila Smith, property accounts manager at the mall, said she would always remember Ethan for his kindness. She added Ethan was the one who hired her and gave her an opportunity to move up.
Ethan Levine suffered from multiple sclerosis, a disease the couple called in their letter "a great age equalizer" that brought "chronic fatigue and associated pain."
"It is a shock," Angell said. "It's going to be hard to forget them."