If you know me, you know Gene's name and how he's touched my life. There are people who come into your life who are there to stay and make a difference. He is one of them.
When Zachary was murdered my life was turned upside down. I've always been honest about my emotions and how I've worked through my grief. Gene has always been someone I could count on. He has been a rock for me to lean on. We have grown into great friends and for once there's an opportunity for me to support him.
Gene is the First Assistant District Attorney in Lackawanna County and he is a nominee to take over as the District Attorney. In support of Gene I've written a letter to the editor. Apparently, letter's need to be concise and that's not a strength of mine. :) I am including the letter I originally wrote to the Times Tribune, not the shortened submitted version.
In support of Gene, please read and share this with your friends especially if you live in Lackawanna County. He is an incredible man and he's right for the job. He deserves our support.
To the Editor,
I am writing to you regarding the nomination of Mr. Talerico as one of the three candidates for the next District Attorney. I am driven to share my experiences with Mr. Gene Talerico with you.
May 24, 2005 was the worst day of my life. My 14 month old son, Zachary passed away. In the days to come I would find out he was murdered at the hand of a child abuser. What I knew in the world was that I was a teacher and I was a mother of two. In the very moment when the ER doctor told me that Zachary was gone, I had no idea who I was anymore, how I was going to breathe my next breath, or take my next step. I was introduced to Gene within the next few days, when it was discovered that Zachary was an innocent victim in a terrible crime. Gene’s colors quickly surfaced. He was dedicated, passionate, and fully committed to seeking justice for Zachary. He educated me about every step of this year long journey we were about to be on. I couldn’t get through anything without tears. He took the time to get to know me and my family. Gene wasn’t only a prosecutor. He became my advisor, an educator, my counselor, and my friend. He always made time for me and it was immediately clear how much he cared about his job. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to learn your child has been murdered. The only solace I had was in knowing I had someone dedicated to fighting for my baby. Because of Gene’s dedication we got a 3rd degree murder plea and a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Here’s where Gene’s true character continued to reveal itself. This upcoming May of 2016 will be 11 years since the murder of my son. Gene still stands by my side helping me, encouraging me, and showing his love and dedication to Zachary. I could write a novel about what he’s done to help me walk through my grief and continue to heal, but for this letter, I’ll shed light on the two most poignant things Gene has done for me, Zachary, my family, and the children of Pennsylvania.
As many of you may know, Gene is also president of the board for Marley’s Mission. He dedicates any spare time he has to the success and growth of a foundation that gives children hope to heal and be themselves again someday. It’s another noble and selfless act. In honor of what would have been Zachary’s 10th birthday I launched a project asking friends and family to do something positive in Zachary’s memory. From March 4th of 2013 to March 4th of 2014, over 50 different projects were done and thousands of dollars were donated to the Remembering Zachary Bench Fund. With the money raised, I had 7 beautiful benches made all engraved “Remembering Zachary”. I donated them all to Marley’s Mission where Gene had them placed along “Zachary’s Way”. He had a part of Marley’s Mission dedicated to the memory of my son! It is the most amazing gift that one can give to a bereaved parent.
Additionally, several years ago Gene helped me begin an overwhelming, emotional journey to pass a new law in Pennsylvania, called Zachary’s Law. When Zachary was murdered, it shocked me to find out that the sentence for 3rd degree murder was as little as 6 years in prison. That is unacceptable and scary. Gene helped me along the path of changing this law. I went from not knowing the first thing about how to change a law in 2010, to successfully having my law signed by the governor in October of 2012. I can unequivocally tell you that without Gene’s guidance and support I could not have done this. He attended the House Judiciary Committee Meetings with me. He was there when the House voted on my bill and he was there when the Governor signed our Law. This humble man is a true hero to me, Zachary and my entire family. I am not sure how strong I’d be today if I didn’t have his unwavering support. My favorite quote is, “sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Gene has been one of my sticks.
He has proven his dedication to being a prosecutor and he has far exceeded the role of Assistant District Attorney by being the kind of human being who cares about others and doesn’t leave their side. For these reasons, I know that Lackawanna County would be lucky to have Mr. Talerico as their next District Attorney.
Some special memories with Gene. From our days in Harrisburg working on our law, to remembering Zachary on his birthday and being a hero to not only myself but also to my daughter.