Estelle O’Connell grew up in a two-parent home. Her memories of her childhood were very fond. She always remembered above all the love her parents shared for one another. Instead of telling each other “I love you” they said Je t’aime. When Estelle was 19-years-old, the family was shattered by a troubled youth who entered the family business and killed her father, Stephen F. Sladowski, attorney, entrepreneur, father and husband. Snuffed out in a moment in time, a man and his family, lives changed forever. The kid went on the lamb and was caught, tried and given a life sentence.
The family had no choice but to survive. The memories were always kept alive by Estelle’s mother. Estelle had just started school at the Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. Her parents just bought their own business in August/September. Estelle was the oldest of the children with her brothers aged 9 and 11 and her sister age 13. Estelle recalls being happy she was on her own. Her childhood was happy but very restricted. She was living every girl’s dream, on her own in the “Big Apple”. The family lived in NJ. Her parents just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.
On the day of the incident, December 18th, Estelle and her mother went shopping. Her father was the city prosecutor. He came home from this job and worked evenings closing the store. A gunman came in and killed Stephen, he didn’t even take anything. Four guys who were standing outside got the license plate and one of them ran and called 911 from the pay phone. The night this happened, Estelle remembers her house was filled with police and reporters. At first, they thought the murder was targeted due to Stephen’s job. This wasn’t the case. The priest asked Estelle was there anyone he could call. She said “Ed, from across the street”. As she said this, he appeared.
Fast-forward, 56 years, 2017, December 23, 2017, the day of Estelle’s husband Ed’s funeral; The same day as her father’s. Estelle married the boy across the street, two years after her father’s death on the same day her parents married and in the same church. Estelle feels her husband was her biggest champion.
Last fall, Estelle decided after reading a novel written about her father’s killer she would write a novel about his life and love of her mother. After the killer served 17 years in prison, he was paroled. He went on to become “The Jersey Shore Thrill Killer”. He killed five more people. Estelle couldn’t figure out why the author of the book written about this killer focused so much on her father, his first victim almost two decades prior to the others. It was such a loss to the community. Estelle’s father was such a wonderful man.
Estelle feels she was lucky. Her husband suffered a stroke. Estelle was grateful she had 6 weeks to say goodbye and cherish her best friend. Her mother did not have that option. Estelle feels she would like to memorialize her father for the man he was, the life he led and not that he is just another victim of a serial killer.
Estelle feels so many strange things have happened since her husband’s death which she calls “little miracles”. Her husband had 23.00 dollars in his wallet when he died ( the age they were married). She had 32.00 (2 tens, 2 fives, 2 singles) and four quarters. The two amounts make 56.00 (the time they were married). She had 34 cents additional (this was the amount of days between their wedding anniversary and the date of his death) (34 days). Estelle believes these little things are little angels smiling or divine messages that this is what is supposed to be happening.
Estelle’s father was a gentleman. He so believed in what he did. He believed in the law. He wasn’t political. When asked what Estelle’s “favorite memory of her father was?” Estelle replied: “It was in 1957, the year before his death at Christmas. Christmas was always a time the family was together. He was always a generous man. Every Christmas, our home was like Toyland. I was the oldest girl. I attended a fashion show at my school. I saw this black fox muff. It was so beautiful. He bought it for me. I still have it”
Estelle has grieved the loss of her husband for 6 weeks but feels he would want her to “get back to getting it done”. Estelle feels “This is a true story of an exemplary life, a shattered dream and an enduring love”. This is a story that must be told. Estelle’s mother told them stories to keep her father’s legacy alive. Estelle feels this is her duty to share this story of her parent’s love to keep it alive for generations to come.
She feels her novel Je t’aime will be complete by April 2017. She is working with Mary Kathleen Daughtry from Boot Strap Publishing. Estelle wants to leave us with this message: “Appreciate and enjoy a treasure every day. Don’t miss an opportunity. You never know. My mom couldn’t say goodbye”.