Friday, August 5, 2011

The Legacy of The Petit Family Foundation

(“Three Angels” Petit Family Memorial Garden)

Some enchanted evening; you may see a stranger,
across a crowded room; and somehow you know, you know even then,

That somewhere you’ll see him, again and again….. 

Who can explain it? Who can tell you why?

Fools give you reasons, Wise men never try….

(Lyrics: “Some Enchanted Evening, Broadway Musical, South Pacific)

By Donna R. Gore, M.A.

This blogger had the good fortune to meet and get to know a world class physician, an academic, a quiet family man who devoted his former life to his patients and “his girls”, wife Jennifer, and daughters Hayley and Michaela. The most recognized survivor of crime in the State of Connecticut, a reluctant hero, is the man known as Dr. William Petit, Jr.

Ladyjustice has hesitated to write anything about this dignified and tormented man. The media hounds him. The public is well meaning and generous through many charitable events whose proceeds go toward the Petit Family Foundation and the Foundation, in turn, sponsors many activities encompassing the three missions honoring his immediate family.

This tragedy of tragedies has effected the hearts of people throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Ladyjustice does not want to exploit nor offend in any way shape or manner by offering her humble opinion. She remains respectful and has tremendous admiration for the remaining survivors of thePetit family.

However, if a local person who occasionally crosses paths with this man, can offer a perspective as a fellow homicide survivor, and perhaps lead others to donate to his Foundation, why not?

A wise woman named Susan Murphy Milano recently told this blogger that no crime victim would ever view such efforts as exploitation, because, as survivors of crime, we are a family. Our biological families have been torn from us, helping each other and helping future victims keeps us going on the path of justice for others. So, in that spirit, Ladyjustice will carry on….

Connecticut experienced a “wakeup call” of the greatest proportion when this horrific crime occurred on July 23, 2007. All assumptions about where “crimes like that” occur (and certainly not Cheshire) were shaken to the core. This crime was the impetus for landmark judicial legislation, rallied people as never before to implement change in attitudes, to be vigilant about personal safety, to buy and install home alarm systems; to reconfigure our Parole & Pardons board, to create a system of sharing vital prisoner histories at all levels of the criminal justice system; to revamp the process for halfway house placements, to “get to know your neighbors” in the form of kindness and neighborhood watches; to initiate numerous scholarships and charitable organizations in the aftermath for the benefit of others who have aspirations “just like the Petit women”; attempts to keep (and eliminate) the death penalty in Connecticut; to create and carry out a legacy for their passions and… for Bill Petit to have as many reasons as possible to carry on without them. (As of today, due to the current economic times, some of these milestones are still a work in progress but alive none the less).

And now, nearly four years later, the legacy of this family lives on through the constant efforts of Bill Petit his parents, siblings, his 95 year old grandmother and extended family and friends.

It is a strange kind of purgatory awaiting a trial… as if the trial itself was supposed to take away the past sins of the defendant(s).

(Ladyjustice’s purgatory, awaiting trial for her father’s homicide spanned six years.) It is this “suspended animation” that wears you down so that by the time the trial is about to commence, you are in a state of mind that perpetuates the wounds and adds further insult to injury.

This is yet another trying time for the Petit family, currently awaiting the second trial to begin in September for the second defendant, whose name doesn’t deserve the ink, and raises the hairs on everyone’s neck in Connecticut and beyond…

In 2009, this blogger was in “full court press mode” as the Chairperson assigned to coordinate a huge state agency event held at our State Capitol known as “the BESB Awards and National Observation of White Can Safety Day.” This event brings together a selected groups of visually impaired or legally blind students and blind adults whose accomplishments over time has served to go above and beyond” in their fields of endeavor or talents in ten categories.

It is the “Emmy Awards” for the blind community in Connecticut, if you will. AND, make no mistake…. This is not a demonstration that they can merely perform with their peers while experiencing blindness (and other disabilities). RATHER, particularly with students, they not only keep up, but often far exceed their sighted peer and are multi-talented in academic and the arts or sports, community affairs, despite their blindness. No Pity Party Here – Never, Unacceptable! Most sighted people have no idea what blind individuals and today’s technology can do….

This event involves coordination of a roster of candidates, nominating committee, contact and invitations with nominees, families, State legislators, municipal officials, the Governor’s office, catering, facilities management, press releases, TV coverage, official proclamations, the crafting of a programming script, correspondence, individual bios for nominees, organizing the flow, seating arrangements, entertainment, etc.; etc., AND selection of an appropriate Master of Ceremonies.

How to get a speaker pro bono, who understands the issues of diabetes and blindness, is committed to the cause and can present in a way that engages the participants??

Ladyjustice wrote a personal letter to Dr. Petit explaining her journey with the medical world, personal disability, personal homicide and our agency’s mission and request for a Master of Ceremonies. ‘A long shot at best, she thought. (Although this blogger’s previous efforts had nearly gotten Mary Tyler Moore twice for this event!) However, this blogger had more in common with Dr. P. versus MTM.

Enter Dr. William Petit, Jr…. He could not have been more gracious and apologized for the letter getting lost in the sea of mail. Long story short, he came to our agency, toured, met with staff, including staff that happens to have MS, and was available for consultations prior to the event.

Following Ladyjustice’s immense pleasure of introduction, Dr. Petit gave a thorough and thoughtful introduction “prior to his duties”, discussing his work with diabetes research and treatment, his hopes for the future and even read an inspirational narrative in French!

His MC style was classy, engaging and funny! He was everything Ladyjustice had hoped for! He indeed was the man for the job! And…“the cherry on top of the sundae” was to have Ladyjustice’s mother in attendance, beaming proudly and asking to meet the esteemed Master of Ceremonies! How perfect! He was now part of the BESB Family.

(Post script- Soon to be part of the “New Bureau of Rehabilitation Services” as of July 1st. So long BESB, a stand alone agency since 1893!)

Fast forward to June 2011…. The public can read an unusual expose’ of the Petit family story in the June/July edition of Esquire Magazine. You can’t miss the magazine, which, for some unknown reason chose to include “The Survivor” article with a cover page GQ like male with a woman’s hand suggestively inserted under the man’s belt. Yikes! Ladyjustice is no prude!

However, this is not the showcase for a man of his caliber. A little class please! I guess, we do what we have to, to serve others for the greater good and let the chips fall where they may, by other tasteless individuals who “just want to sell magazines at any cost.”

The article begins with a typical event held to raise funds for his Foundation by the many friends and supporters of what was the Petit family foursome, then to a snapshot of his life currently in Plainville, followed by a the sentencing day of the first monster defendant on December 2, 2010.

It is an account that reminds this writer of a work of fiction, describing glimpses, breathing, gestures, detailed descriptions of clothing, a visceral attempt to “get into his skin.” Ladyjustice is not amused. This is no fairytale. Other passages paint a picture of the humanity of what were his former family- stories of his children.

The torture of being physically bound, seriously wounded and “not knowing, only guessing” what’s going on in the house is portrayed though Dr. Petit’s internal thoughts, back to courtroom testimony, the morning of the Memorial service (Something greater than a private service but less than a full blown extravaganza trying to accommodate the grieving public as well) with a man just out of the hospital trying to hold on.

The story traverses to the events of the day prior to the murders-the family kind of activities followed by the meeting and courtship days with his wife and lessons he tried to teach his children. The final pages treat the reader to an insightful account growing up in a working class neighborhood as seen through William Petit, Sr. in a family with several siblings, and Bill described as naturally being a self-starter, a survivor by nature (well worth the read!)

Could such a normal boyhood existence have prepared this man for his future? Not a chance…. To be fair, Ladyjustice should ask could anyone write an account that sufficiently covers the landscape of this story?

It’s doubtful… Perhaps one or two authors, like Diane Fanning, but very few for sure!

“What’s if’s” are in the account, those tapes that play over and over in our heads, “had we or others only done things differently”,we might have our family member back in the world of the living. Ladyjustice advise, don’t do the “what ifs,” as we have enough self-torture in our lives…. Do the positive things that our family members would have done if they were here now.

***And please donate to the Petit Family Foundation. You will find no better reasons to give your time and dollars!


To learn more about Donna R. Gore, aka "LadyJustice" and her advocacy, please visit her site:

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