The Deed

Matthew, Jimmy, Mom and Bonnie

That fall, mom kept her word to remove us from the school system. She found support from the local Seventh Day Adventists who had been teaching their children at home. They told my parents the requirements, supplied us with books and desks, and we were good to go.

Not so fast, said the judge, as my parents were hauled into Family Court. Despite New York State law that allowed parents to teach their children at home for a "good reason" the judge declared he would remove all school aged children from our home if my parents did not return us to the Mexico School system by Friday. That was Tuesday, October 13.

Two of us returned to the public school on Wednesday. But only for one day. We were now targets of discrimination and suspicion. Even we who wanted to go to public school were afraid.

We returned home, and stayed there for our classes.

On Monday, October 19, 1970, while working on our studies, we heard loud voices coming from the cider mill below us. I crept out to the landing of the inside stairwell and listened. I could hear my mom, but there were other voices as well. I crept back inside and told my siblings, "I think they are here to take us away." We were stunned.

Two police cars pulled into our driveway as we heard footsteps stomp up the stairs. The door burst open and mom cried, "The police are here to take you away. Go get your father."

I ran out the back door of the cider mill with one of my siblings. As we raced through the apple orchard to find dad, my mind raced with the terror of the situation. Was this real? Were they actually going to take us away from our parents? Could they really do this? Why the police? What crime had we done?

Dad was busy emptying his apples into a crate. In rapid staccato, we told him of the social workers, the police, and mom's request that he come quickly. He put his basket down immediately and hurried back to the house with us. It was around 2:00 in the afternoon.

Mom called every influential person she could think of. Mom and Dad were told, once the court order is issued, there is nothing you can do to stop it. It was too late.

"We'd better get the kids downstairs," Dad said sorrowfully. "If they want my kids, they will have to come and take them," my mom cried. With that, footsteps sounded on the stairs. Two social workers and two police men stood in our little living room. The social worker in charge looked disdainfully around the living room and said, "Get your coats, if you have any."

At that insult, my Dad exploded. "You take them, you provide." We were ushered out by the police, and loaded into the back of the police cruisers, behind the grille that separated criminals from officer.

Kathy, only 7 at the time, could not understand being handed over to strangers who insulted her parents and called policemen to support them. Confused and frightened, she grabbed onto mom and cried out, "don't let them take me!"

"Help us," the social worker demanded of her, as she one by one pried my little sister's fingers from my mom's skirt. Then she dragged her away. Once in the car, 8 year old Jackie started to cry. Police officer  Yoblonski turned around and snapped, "Don't start that again." I took Jackie into my arms and tried to comfort her. I was all of 14 years old.

We were driven to the social service office in Mexico, New York. As the police officers left, the social workers thanked them for coming "to our rescue." "Call us anytime," they replied.

We sat in the social service waiting room for over an hour. The social service women hurried around, trying to find homes for us. We asked if they could keep us together, and if not, could a younger child be put with an older one. "Of course," they assured us.

After an hour, having left with nothing but what was on our backs, we were rushed across the street to Ramseys' Clothing Store. Mr. Ramsey knew us well, as we often shopped at his family's store for shoes and clothes. As the social workers pushed us around the store and urged us to quickly pick out a few necessary things, he kindly helped us make our choices. He understood what the social workers did not; that we were traumatized by the day's events and in no position to make quick decisions.

Once we had gathered supplies, the social workers separated us. We who were older pleaded again for them to pair younger with older. Instead, we were separated by age. Jerry, 10,  was taken alone to his foster parents in Parish. Jackie, 8 and Kathy, 7, were taken to another outside Oswego County. The three older were taken to Fair Haven.

When we were dropped off at the foster home in Fair Haven, we were told under no circumstance were we to try to call our parents. Neither were we allowed to call our brother or sisters, or even know where they had been taken. We had become simply wards of the state.

Meanwhile, mom and dad were not sitting back and waiting to see what would happen. They were on the phone making contacts, getting information, and alerting friends. A tip got them in touch with a group of concerned parents of New York, called Pony-U (Parents of New York United). They'd been fighting the dreaded state required Sex Education law for years with little results. They eagerly took up our plight, calling the local media and detailing to them what had just transpired.

The media gladly took up the story. What follows is mostly from the pages of newspapers across the nation as the Gracey Case became a beacon of light for all concerned parents.