This morning a different kind of pillar of Newton also passed away – Jackie Gauvereau Sequeira. Jackie was many many things.
She was a crank – she was that woman at the back of the meeting yelling something and disrupting the proceedings, the woman who couldn’t be shushed, the woman everyone rolled their eyes at.
She was extraordinarily brave – in 1981, more than 20 years before the Boston Globe Spotlight team broke the story about the Catholic priest pedophiles, Jackie blew the whistle to a deaf church. She uncovered compelling evidence that a local Newton priest, Father Paul Shanley had abused an eleven year old boy. She went to the head of the local parish and he dismissed her accusation and turned the parish against her. She went to Cardinal Law, the head of the Catholic Church in Boston and he did the same. She refused to let it drop and hounded Cardinal Law in the way that only Jackie could until he wouldn’t take her calls. When the story eventually came out 20 years later, the trail of Jackie’s relentless hounding of the Cardinal was important evidence that showed that the church had known about this for years and had actively and knowingly covered it up. For all of this Jackie paid an enormous personal price. Her community, her friends, her church turned against her, discredited her, and shunned her. To the day she died, the sting of that never faded.
She was outrageous – when my daughter was about 11 years old she came running into the kitchen one day saying “daddy that woman’s out front screaming again”. Jackie was parked out in front of the house in her big boat of an Oldsmobile with the window rolled down screaming at the top of her lungs “JEHHHHHHHHRRRRRYYYY!”. She didn’t like to use the doorbell.
She was relentless – One year at the Upper Falls Village Day, Mayor Warren came with his family. He and his family went to the microphone to kick off the festivities and suddenly there was a woman coming at him and yelling at the top of her lungs. The mayor’s wife pulled back in fear and Setti re-assured his wife “oh that’s Jackie, she yells at me all the time.”
She was full of surprises – She walked into a public gathering and announced “I’m going to run for mayor”. I’ll run for the Cougar Party. I’m a cougar!!” Everybody laughed and the next day we learned that she had pulled papers, gathered the required signatures, and was indeed running for mayor. I thought to myself, this is going to be a trainwreck , but no. She didn’t come close to winning but she handled herself well, took part in the mayoral debate, and raised significant issues worth raising.
She was funny. She was kind. She was tough. She was difficult. She was a one-of-a-kind. She was my friend.
Rest in peace Jackie and I’d love to hear what they make of you wherever you are now.