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In grief, determination 10 years after an anti-abortionist killed her husband, Lynne Slepian finds her strength through their four sons

It has been 10 full years since that horrific Friday night in the fall of 1998, the night when Dr. Barnett A. Slepian was assassinated inside the kitchen of his East Amherst home.

Lynne Slepian, his wife, lost her partner that night. She lost the father of their four sons. And she lost her stability, her financial security.

But she still has her most prized treasures, as seen on her license plate: "MY-4BOYZ."

"At the time, when it happened, you think you've lost it all," she said in her new Amherst home on the eve of the 10th anniversary. "But my strength comes from my kids, from my whole family and close friends. If it wasn't for the four boys. . . ."

The boys, she said, have become "my driving force."

As the 10th anniversary of her husband's slaying passes, Lynne Slepian knows that his imprint -- his striving for excellence and his preoccupation with his sons' education -- has left its mark on the four boys.

Andrew has graduated from law school. Brian plans to go to dental school. Michael is a junior in college. And Philip plans to attend college next year.

"They've worked hard, really hard," she said, flashing a mother's pride. "I give them a lot of credit. They've continued on their path and stayed with their goals. They've learned they can pretty much do anything."

Ten years is a long time.

The Slepians' youngest son, Philip, was only 7 and in second grade then. Now he is a high school senior, older than any of the four Slepian boys was on that night when they saw their father gunned down.

But Lynne Slepian flashes her colorful language when she brings up the subject of closure, even after the conviction of her husband's killer, James C. Kopp, who had targeted Slepian as an abortion provider.

"This closure [stuff]?" she said. "There's no closure. I can't imagine closure. I don't want anyone who worked so hard on the Kopp case to think it wasn't tremendously appreciated. It was appreciated more than we could ever express. Everyone put their whole heart into it. It's nice to never have to worry about him again. But there is daily fallout for the rest of our lives."

In conjunction with the 10th anniversary, the Pro-Choice Network has organized a memorial service for Slepian at 3 p.m. Sunday in Temple Beth Am, 4660 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Anyone interested in attending is asked to R.S.V.P. at 689-8684.

His wife is grateful for the opportunity to have people come together once again, whether it's to celebrate her husband's life or just to remember him.

"The kids will see there are a lot of people who still care," she said. "They'll realize he hasn't been forgotten. And more importantly, it will give the family a chance to reconnect."

Like others mourning a loved one, Lynne Slepian sometimes has trouble believing that it has been 10 years since her husband was killed. Sometimes, it feels like yesterday.

"People will say, 'I can't believe it's been 10 years,' " she said. "But for us, it's so much a part of our daily life that it's no different from 11 years or 12 years or 15 years."

Lynne Slepian visits her husband's grave frequently, on anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions.

"I go there to be alone with my thoughts," she said. "Sometimes I feel I get my conclusions reinforced."

But the realities of her present life made it too difficult to go there Thursday, the 10th anniversary of the day he died: Oct. 23, 1998.

She works two jobs, about 60 hours a week, as an occupational nurse specialist with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and a part-time job with the Amherst police. On Thursdays, she works a 16-hour day.

Lynne Slepian doesn't like to talk about the financial constraints on her family. She and her four sons moved into a smaller home in February 2006, leaving the home where her husband and their father was killed. She works two jobs in hopes of being able to stay in her new home.

"I miss it," she said of the old home. "There was some sort of comfort being there. It was the kids' home. I'd still be there if it weren't for the financial constraints."

She and her four boys talk and think about Barnett Slepian every day.

"We really don't talk about the night of the shooting," she said. "It's not like we avoid it, but it just doesn't come up. We talk about the things that are missing and how it's changed everybody."

Andrew, 25, graduated from Penn State and Brooklyn Law School and recently took the state bar exam. Brian, 23, graduated from Miami (Ohio) University and is applying to dental school. Michael, 20, is a junior at Ohio State, interested in a career in sports management. Philip, 17, is a senior at Williamsville East and is planning to go to college.

Their father set high standards and expectations for his children. He gave them responsibilities and chores when they were young, and insisted that they be done. Since his death, all four have had jobs since they were old enough to work, juggling those jobs with their schoolwork.

"I think he'd be pleased," Lynne Slepian said of her husband. "School was super, super, super important to him, as it was to me. They all . . . had goals and achieved their goals."

She prides herself on the fact that her three oldest boys all went away to college. "I wanted them to get to the point where they could go away and be on their own and be self-sufficient," she said. "They did it the hard way. They learned that they could survive. They were given more than most kids, but not as much as they would have had if Bart were still around."

Over the last 10 years, Lynne Slepian remains grateful to the few public figures who have been there for her and her family the whole way, especially trying to help the four boys in any way they could. As examples, she cited Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She also mentioned the love and support of her parents, Sonny and Bert Breitbart; her sister Elissa; and brother Jeff.

In a lengthy interview, Lynne Slepian barely brought up the name of Kopp.

"Do I hate him any less now? No. I hate him the same," she said. "I feel nothing for him. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of even thinking about him."

She still cares passionately about the larger cause, about a woman's right of choice and about what she calls the "terrorism" still found in the anti-abortion movement.

"There are still way too many people who think what James Kopp did was OK, that it appealed to some other higher power, that it's OK to take a life like that," she said. "No other family should have to be put through this ordeal."

That's another lesson she hopes her four sons take from Sunday's service.

"I hope my boys understand more about what their father stood for," she said. "While none have chosen their father's profession, they all believe strongly in a woman's right for choice.

"And that their father didn't die in vain."


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