Prison Wives ID -
When I was a little girl I wanted to marry someone who could take care of me. I thought it would be nice to have a husband who is strong kind and wonderful-- we all have our dreams and that was one of mine. I never thought I would have married someone who murdered people did robberies or escaped from prison. I wanted some kind of normal marriage like you see in the movies. Maybe not that conventional because I am not that way at heart, but to have someone to be home with me to share my days and nights and to have a family with. I had no clue as to what my future would bring. Growing up, someone had said to me that I always went for those "bad boy" types. Not that I consciously did but perhaps I did, always being around ex-cons my dad and mom often hired as attendants in the family ambulance service business.
I wanted a big wedding.  I wanted to have those things that girls, and later young ladies, wanted. I had no idea that I would meet a man like my husband, fall in love with him and have to live my life the way I have been doing for the past twenty plus years. We had one of those stormy courtships. Things were fine when we were alone together but when Joe "had" to go somewhere and be with his "friends" we had fights that I thought we would never get over. But we stuck with it, maybe because we were both scared of what our lives would be like without each other. I had found that strong man I was looking for, and Joe found someone who understood him for what he really wanted to be, someone more like his dad than what he turned out to be.
Joe certainly had the qualities of his dad but he learned other things while being in prison so many years, things that kept him upon a bad and dangerous path.
In our own way, we have managed to keep whatever we had going. I feel that we have something special, as most couples must feel with the loved one they have chosen. In retrospect, at our age, we do have that. It took a lot of years, a lot of learning to get to the point where we are today, but we got here, together.
I honestly don't know how I survived it all. It might be because I do not dwell on the past. I do not want to live in the past. I live my life to the fullest I can each day, forgetting bad times as best I can. Sometimes that is very hard to do. But I always knew that Joe was different, that he moved to the beat of his own drum. I knew he had to do what he felt he had to do, and that is why I fell in love with him. I didn't know what life Joe led when he wasn't home with me until he came home one night and threw out a perfectly good suit that he had just bought. I looked at him, and all of a sudden everything clicked into place.
Why I stayed with him then, I can't recall now, except that we were going to have a baby, we were married and he was my life. It would have been easier to just tell him to leave the house and never come back. But, even then, I knew he wasn't like that-- he would always come back. I never really discussed his "other" life with him when he was out here with me. I live best when I live in denial and that was mostly how I lived during that time. I didn't let Joe get away with not doing the basic things that I thought a husband had to do, but I did turn my back on what he was doing. I really didn't want to deal with the truth because that is often the hardest thing to deal with.
So I went about "my" business, Joe went about his and when he was home, he went about mine. Drugs and drinking weren't done in family. Joe's family was good at the drinking and Joe was good with the drugs. We dabbled together for a while but it wasn't something that I really wanted to do in my life especially since we had a son and wanted another one. Joe needed to sew his oats so he went to the clubs and I stayed home. He wanted a new car so he got a Corvette. He wanted someone who wouldn't "nag" him so he found a girlfriend. I made all those excuses for him whenever people asked me why he did this or that, I would say he was away for a long time in prison, maybe twenty years before we got together, so he is trying to catch up to life! At the time I was too naive to think that he would cheat on me. Sure he did cocaine, robbed and killed people but I was sure he would never cheat on me-- boy did I learn a lot! We both did for that matter. I told Joe "if you cheat on a wife do it with loads of women not just one because then it becomes an affair and you can get a "fatal attraction." And that's just what he got or I should say we both got for what happened to him also happened to me.
I always made excuses for Joe and still do in some ways. I remember when Ramsey (our son) and our niece who lived upstairs at our house wanted to play in our house. They would ask "Dad" or "Uncle Joe" if he was in a good mood or a bad mood. Then they would know if they could come in and play in Ramsey's room or not. I had trained my family that Joe was a very moody man but when he was "on" he was wonderful. When he wasn't, everyone was really afraid of him-- but not me. I knew that he would never hurt any of us. He was the only adult male figure around and while my sister, mother, and other family and friends were afraid of Joe, they loved him at the same time. We use to help my mother take care of my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins, he didn’t even mind when Cousin Harry moved in with us, he loved it when he was on. We took people in when they needed a place, even my ex-husband who was his friend in the joint. That is the kind of guy he is.
Joe would talk to my mom for hours while I was at work. He would yell at my sister for mistreating her kids and she would be shaking in her pants trying to please him. He was always there when someone needed something-- a friend of mine couldn't pay her rent; Joe was there giving her money and didn't want it back. He is liked by most people, feared by others, but is always respected. When Joe walks into a place anywhere, people know he is there; his presence is felt and heard without a sound. Not many people I know have that quality and to be honest that is another thing I love about him. It's amazing to see people look at him wonder about him and even learn from him. That is what our sons see in him and in turn try to emulate.
If nothing else, I got a great education from my life with Joe. More than one wants but that makes me who I am and I know that I'm OK and that my life could be worse, of course it could be better too-- I just need Joe home and a million in the bank. But all kidding aside, I have a good life. When someone would kid Joe about the homos in prison he would reply that that was not for him that he would have to look at himself in the mirror and see his reflection. I too can look into that mirror and say that life is great. Joe just made it more interesting than most. In some ways, I can say that it suited my personality. I really never wanted a boring life-- I just got a bit more than I anticipated. But as my mother said "You made your bed now you have to lie in it." And I have with Joe.
I am still with him and have no real regrets except that he isn't home and won't be. A smaller bid would have been nice but that wasn't in the cards. We will just have to grow old together, the way we are now, one day at a time with him there in prison and me at home. We have come to terms with a lot of things and that is one of them. We help each other grow. We bounce things off each other. We communicate and that is undoubtedly the biggest reason outside of our love for each other that has kept us together and strong.
Joe wasn't like most prisoners, making me visit every week asking where I was when he called and couldn't get me and he never really asked for much. I try to visit and be with him as much as possible after once moving to Las Vegas for five years to attend school there only able to come back to see Joe several times a year. After I graduated and Ramsey graduated High School I moved back to New York to be near Joe. I missed him not seeing him so much. He seemed to understand that and he felt the same way, and that made me love him even more. Things like that have kept my love alive for him.
As time has gone by we have grown to understand each other better and better though I still don't really understand why Joe ended up like he did for he is an intelligent man-- when Joe wrote to the Syracuse Newspaper to thank the people for acquitting him on a bank robbery charge, the editor of the paper called his lawyer asking him if he had written the letter for Joe. He couldn't believe that Joe had the level of intelligence and education evident in the letter.
It is the complexity of it all that makes it simple at times. We can look around a visiting room observing couples and we can say: we were like that... we did that... or he did that or I did that. We are still together because we took the time to understand each other and our relationship. We have been through so much over the years that those experiences help us work things out better. Even our sons know that we have a more "quality" life than a "quantity" life. Joe is a captive audience and they know they can go to him for anything. I love to hear them talk and watch them interact on visits.
You have to think outside of the box to understand the life that I lead. Most people don't quite understand and to be honest it doesn't bother me a bit if they do or don't. Once people realize who my husband is they kind of look at me funny. I find it kind of amusing as we all have our own thing going on in our lives. Joe is a unique guy and that is why I love him even with the load of obstacles in our way. Even though Joe isn't home with us he is with us all the time. I am more fortunate than most single mothers as I am married to a man who, though he doesn't live at home, still plays an active role and important part in the lives of his family. Joe has taught his sons how to think like a man as his father taught him: manners, common decency, respect, and pride in oneself. I'm sure that people can't understand that Joe has all those qualities being who he is and having done what he has done. But it doesn't matter what people think and that is what this is all about.
My husband escaped from Attica prison in April of 1971 and has been the only prisoner ever to do so. Then came the riots...The riot highlights how dangerous Attica was at that time and the frightening chance my husband took to get free of the place.
Nothing in life is all good or all bad and my husband's life is no exception to that. No one can understand the decisions one makes within life's choices, and it doesn't matter what people think anyway. The man I married, is the man that I love with all of my heart, the man that gave me two fine sons, {and now we have grandchildren}, that we both are very proud of, is the same man who law enforcement speculates might have murdered as many as thirty people.
Please go check it out
You can read more about us in my book Tears & Tiers by ordering it through My next book Cellmates, will be out the Summer of 2010, telling stories about infamous people Joe was in prison with.
                  The Joseph Sullivan Family
Our sons Ramsey and Kelly with Me.
My son Kelly and Ivette and their son, KellyG.                                         
Kelly & Ivette's sons Luis with KellyG
Ramsey, Cousin Harry, Joey and Kelly
Peanuts our dog 
   Ramsey with his wife Amber, KellyG, Emma and Joey their     two children
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