and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

The Boston Herald
Sunday, October 19, 2003

Tooky's wife:
Prison bars can't divide us: Amiraults await end of long ordeal

by Margery Eagan

All of us, as the nuns used to say, have our crosses to bear.

Rearing three children with a husband in prison is surely one of them.

When that husband is convicted in the most notorious day-care sex abuse case in state history, the size of that cross increases a thousandfold. This is the era of sex predator as any man, after all, when jailhouse lunatics see themselves as avengers for murdering priest abusers, when many powerful voices say judges should not allow supposedly irredeemable sex offenders out of prison, ever.

Yet Patti Amirault, a fourth-grade teacher, has managed to bring up her children in the same black-shuttered Colonial in the same Malden neighborhood among the same friends and accusers who've despised Gerry "Tooky" Amirault since he left home 17 years ago. It is, I suppose, a testament to family strength that survived distance, humiliation, missed birthdays, graduations and proms and a million raised hopes always dashed, until now.

"You're bitter at times and angry at times," said Patti Amirault Friday evening. "'Why did this happen to us?' But you have to get above it. You have to do what you have to do."

Gerrilyn Amirault, 24, a graduate of St. Anselm's College, works now in special education and hopes to go to graduate school. Son P.J., 19, has just begun military school, "is having a blast," his mother says, and aspires to a career in law enforcement. Katie Amirault, 23, works in insurance. Tomorrow is her engagement party. She plans to marry this July, on her parents' wedding anniversary, with her father walking her down the aisle.

Asked how hard this was - working two and three jobs, moonlighting at Filene's and as an ATM repairman while traveling back and forth to prison and lawyers' offices - Patti Amirault credits her parents, close family and friends. Faith has helped her, she says, not in institutions, but in people, "who have been remarkable to us." Then she credits her husband who, she says, somehow managed to father from jail.

"Through all his years in prison, he's been a great dad," Katie Amirault told the Herald Friday afternoon. "He's been as much a part of my life as he could be," said Gerrilyn of the convicted felon who wrote constantly and called home every day, sometimes several times a day, to advise, to scold, to complain, to talk about anything from his legal appeals to the new wallpaper his wife picked out. His family made sure to include him in special occasions, such as the 40th anniversary of Patti's parents. During the party Patti played his taped message from jail.

"We have been friends since we were 6," Patti Amirault says of her husband. Beginning a new life without him, she said, was never an alternative. And so they made the treks to whatever jail he was in, she and the children, 7, 6 and 2 when it all began. They tried, though they assuredly were not, to act normal.

Gerald Amirault, 49, has taken computer courses and is close to a degree from Boston University. Patti Amirault says he doesn't know what he'll do for work. Their only plans now are to "hang out," go to Red Sox games, and be with family. She said they are still somewhat "stunned" and "the kids are on Cloud Nine." Then she related how they got the news.

"He had told me all the possible good and bad scenarios. And it turned out to be the good scenario. He went into the room and the (parole board) woman said, 'Mr. Amirault, we have good news.' He said he just dropped his head on the table, his whole body just shook uncontrollably for a few minutes. And then he called home."

Margery Eagan's radio show airs noon to 1 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays on 96.9 FM-Talk.

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