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Mon Mar 4, 2013, 01:50 AM

After Dad shot Mom

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/liveblog/wp/2013/02/28/magazine-after-dad-shot-mom-a-family-deals-with-the-haunting-legacy-of-gun-violence/

WP Magazine: After Dad shot Mom, a family deals with the haunting legacy of gun violence
Posted by Neely Tucker on February 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

Edward Kenneth Vessels married his bride, Fran, in the stone- and-stained-glass embrace of St. Dominic’s Church in Southwest Washington in the summer of 1952. They were a handsome couple in their mid-20s, and in many ways were the embodiment of the postwar middle-class American dream.

They met as students in a biology class at Catholic University and eventually settled in a little house on the outskirts of Louisville. They had three boys and three girls.

On Friday night, Jan. 20, 1967, he asked Frannie and the boys to have a seat at the dining-room table. He went to the bedroom, got a 12-gauge shotgun, came back and, in a matter-of-fact way, told them he was about to go to jail and the kids were going to an orphanage.

He then shot his wife across the table at a range of three feet.

21 replies, 5150 views

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply After Dad shot Mom (Original post)
jsr Mar 2013 OP
Skittles Mar 2013 #1
BlancheSplanchnik Mar 2013 #3
raccoon Mar 2013 #12
Journeyman Mar 2013 #2
LynnieV Mar 2013 #16
Doctor_J Mar 2013 #21
Drunken Irishman Mar 2013 #4
Viva_La_Revolution Mar 2013 #13
southerncrone Mar 2013 #5
tblue Mar 2013 #6
Warpy Mar 2013 #7
dorksied Mar 2013 #8
raccoon Mar 2013 #9
raccoon Mar 2013 #10
Mnemosyne Mar 2013 #11
raccoon Mar 2013 #14
Journeyman Mar 2013 #15
LynnieV Mar 2013 #17
jsr Mar 2013 #18
bluesbassman Mar 2013 #19
Rhiannon12866 Mar 2013 #20

Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 02:07 AM

1. a difficult read but worth it

I too know the devastation caused by childhood trauma - it stays with you always

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Response to Skittles (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 03:14 AM

3. it does

That's true.

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Response to Skittles (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 08:09 AM

12. Amen to that. nt

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 02:55 AM

2. So many of us carry such devastating burdens, it's a wonder the world doesn't collapse. . .

I'm glad to hear some of this family has come to terms in part with some of their demons.

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Response to Journeyman (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 14, 2013, 08:08 PM

16. Thanks!

Hi, I'm Lynnie Vessels, the fifth child of the Vessels and author of the book based on this story. It was hard work, but so much healing has happened for us.

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Response to LynnieV (Reply #16)

Fri Mar 15, 2013, 09:26 AM

21. Welcome

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 03:39 AM

4. Goes to show you there was never a 'perfect America'...

It's all a myth. We like to talk about the best days and the reality is, for millions of families, those times were just as difficult and menacing and evil as it is for millions of families today. It's sad, really.

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Response to Drunken Irishman (Reply #4)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 12:12 PM

13. There's a great book on the subject

The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap
The Way We Never Were examines two centuries of American family life and shatters a series of myths and half-truths that burden modern families. Placing current family dilemmas in the context of far-reaching economic, political, and demographic changes, Coontz sheds new light on such contemporary concerns as parenting, privacy, love, the division of labor along gender lines, the black family, feminism, and sexual practice.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Never-Were-Nostalgia/dp/0465090974/ref=rec_dp_0

VivaDad gave me a copy when it first came out, and it was a bit of a shock (I hadn't found DU yet, I was so uninformed then)

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 04:00 AM

5. I think this was all too common place in those days.

My mother left my father when I was 2 because of his raging alcoholism. I remember vividly to this day the night b/4 she took me & left...and I was only 2 1/2! I'm 57 now, the same age as Joseph. She was fortunate to have parents who would take us in & the good sense to get out of the situation. It was not easy being a single parent then, nor the child of divorced parents, but I do know it could have been worse. I know this because my husband lived a similar story, difference is he pulled a gun on his alcoholic father when he was 14. Luckily, the alcoholic backed down that night, but kept drinking & making their lives miserable every day. He still suffers from that extremely violent, dysfunctional family experience. Trust & emotional availability are still hard for him. I'm certain I was luckier.

"The Good Ole Days" weren't so good for those who weren't male & white. It should also be noted that this happened in the South, where wife-beating & indentured child slavery were not only accepted, but actually expected if a man was "any kind of man". My husband & I both grew up in the South, & still live here.

This is part of the history of women. If the Republicans think that women are about to give up any of the rights that we fought so hard to attain, then they should get ready for a fierce fight. Birth control is a HUGE factor in this story. My guess is that Mr. Vessels would have been delighted if his wife had been able to attain it in the '50's & this horror would never have happened. This tragic story happened only 45 yrs ago. We have come a long way, baby, but we've still got a long way to go.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 04:05 AM

6. "the boys ran from their father. The girls ran to their mother"

I imagine they are left with scars of guilt on top of the fear and horror, the boys I mean. Oh my gosh how awful. I had a violent alcoholic husband. I'm so glad I left him early on and that we didn't have kids. What would have become of them and me? DO NOT stay in a violent relationship for any amount of time, people. Anything is better than that.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 04:17 AM

7. This was an especially tough read for me

because my whole extended family has been ripped apart by alcoholism. I especially relate to the way the kids simply scattered far away from each other, not maintaining anything but perfunctory contact.

Dad didn't shoot Mom in any of the families, murder intruded from outside the family, but there are so many similarities to what my cousins and I went through that it's eerie.

It wouldn't have done much good for Fran Vessels to have pressed charges. If he didn't kill her, it was just a family dispute gone bad, nothing to see here, move along. That is the way it was back then: little birth control, no abortion, and men could do whatever they wanted to to the wife and kids with impunity as long as he didn't actually kill them.

I sat in a lot of Al Anon meetings to learn how to cope. Now some of my cousins are going down the same road, bipolars who are trying to self medicate with alcohol and ending up alcoholic bipolars.

I hope the Vessels kids find healing and peace. It's still a struggle for me.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 04:51 AM

8. This story isn't so much about gun violence, as much as a person possessed by the demon known as

Alcoholism.

I've know alcoholics, and they just aren't themselves when they're gone. Something else comes out, something malevolent and hurtful... hateful.

As far as the impact of domestic violence, I have experienced it firsthand, and while my story is not unique, I still bear the emotional scars. This story was very real to me... I understand it on a very visceral level.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 07:54 AM

9. WHAT??!!?? "“He scarcely saw the inside of a jail cell,”

Why the fuck not??




That fucker should have been put UNDER the jailhouse!!!!!!

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 07:59 AM

10. WTF???!!!??? He could have killed the kids too. This story really triggers me.


"Later that night, the girls are in bed at the grandparents’ house. The door opens, a shaft of light. The silhouette of their father. Released on bond, he comes in and lies down between his girls, who are too petrified to move."

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 08:04 AM

11. My grandfather pulled a gun on me when I was twelve and staying with them while I was sick with

Scarlet Fever. He was very drunk and commented that neither one of us was worth a damn and started trying to load his rifle/shotgun, have no clue which kind. I ran out of the house barefoot in my pajamas (it was winter in NW Pa) and to the neighbors, who called my grandmother at work. He was passed out by the time my Nana got home, but it terrified me for a very long time.

When he wasn't drunk he thought I would be Miss America.

Forward to the early eighties and my cousin, an alcoholic steroid-taking idiot, called me about 1 a.m. He told me he'd had enough and I heard a gunshot and nothing more. I screamed into the phone, nothing. My ex and I raced to his house. I was terrified at what we would find, he was raised with me until age 7 and kind of like a brother.

He had shot out the back window into muddy ground at his apartment complex. He was involuntarily committed for a month.

Both incidents seriously traumatized me for a long time.

I hate guns, except hunting for food.


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Response to jsr (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 03:25 PM

14. After Dad shot Mom, a family deals with the haunting legacy of alcoholism and attempted murder,"


might have been the title.

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Response to raccoon (Reply #14)

Tue Mar 5, 2013, 03:04 AM

15. It would have been a more apt title. . .

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Thu Mar 14, 2013, 09:22 PM

17. I am Lynnie Vessels, author of To Soften the Blow, fifth child in Vessels family

If anyone wants to know any more of this story, I am happy to tell it. In fact, had I written this article, it would not have had such a sad tone to it. There has been a tremendous amount of healing in our family and we (save Judy) are doing fairly well, living fulfilling lives. I detail my experience from the night of the shooting to when I get into therapy at 27 (The Blow), and spent the next eleven years dealing with and purging the better part of the PTSD I never knew I had (The Softening). I can tell you, my father being let out of jail and crawling into bed with us on the same night he blew our mother literally to shreds was the hardest part to heal. Lynnie Vessels@ lynnievessels.com

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Response to LynnieV (Reply #17)

Thu Mar 14, 2013, 11:23 PM

18. Wow.

Thanks for posting!

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Response to LynnieV (Reply #17)

Fri Mar 15, 2013, 12:06 AM

19. Welcome to DU Lynnie, and thanks for sharing your experience.

May you continue to heal as you continue your life's journey.

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Response to LynnieV (Reply #17)

Fri Mar 15, 2013, 01:15 AM

20. Incredible story, Lynnie, and welcome to DU.

Thank you so much for checking in with us. This is such a gripping story, but I am so sorry that you had to live it. It's reassuring to know that most of you are doing well, makes me want to read your book. I don't know if I could if I hadn't read your posts. Now that you've found us, I hope you decide to stay.

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