Dying To Help

Hal Hovey took a long look at the high cost of living with cancer and didn't like what he saw.

The former state finance director first consulted with his doctor on treatment options. Then he pored over cost-benefit analyses and a computer spreadsheet he set up showed a grim future in black-and-white: His treatment would cost as much as $25,000 but would have uncertain results.

So Hovey chose to donate the amount he would have spent on his own treatment to create a fund that would help young cancer patients. Then he took his own life.

Hovey's decision was "consistent with everything I knew about Hal Hovey," said David Sweet, dean of Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs and a former state development director.

"I could just see him there doing a cold-hearted analysis of cost and benefits and coming to a conclusion that not many would probably follow," Sweet said Tuesday.

Hovey, a smoker without health insurance, chose not to watch himself deteriorate into a husk of his former self, his daughter said. Hovey died at age 60 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Oct. 18 on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

In the months leading up to his death, Hovey read several books on his illness, cancer of the mouth, and set up projections of estimated expenses.

His final decisions "were really just a continuation of his whole life and the difficult decisions you make in government," said his daughter Kendra Hovey. "Trying to make a decision that will do the most good, put the money where it will do the most good."

The Hovey Fund will cover costs incurred by cancer patients not covered by insurance, such as transportation, lodging, child care and nonprescription drugs. The fund will accept donations to keep it going.

Money will be available to children up to age 19 suffering chronic illnesses such as sickle cell anemia or cerebral palsy, and cancer patients 16 to 25 years old.

Hovey was a public policy analyst at the Batelle Memorial Institute in Columbus when Democratic Gov.-elect John Gilligan tapped him to become state finance director in 1971.

He became the architect of Ohio's income tax. Legislators "quickly learned to take his word and his figures as rock-solid, the absolute truth," Gilligan said Tuesday.

In 1973, he became state budget director in Illinois, and later worked as a budgeting consultant to several federal agencies and state governments.

Hovey left Gilligan's office in 1973 to become state budget director in Illinois. He later worked as a budgeting consultant to several federal agencies and state governments.

Hovey "had a fantastically well-organized analytical mind," Gilligan said. "He could take over just a haystack of papers and reports and accounts, all speaking a different language, and make absolutely good sense about them so that anybody could read and understand them."