PITTSFIELD -- Governor Deval and Diane Patrick's nearly 30-year marriage is a relationship of second chances.

Deval Patrick in his early adulthood planned to marry his high school and college sweetheart, only to be jilted by the woman as he studied abroad. Patrick discovered his fiancee was engaged to another man upon returning from a yearlong trip to Africa.

Diane Patrick was in an abusive, life-threatening marriage when she first met her future second husband in the early 1980s in Los Angeles. The couple struck up a friendship that turned into love after Diane left her first husband and filed for divorce. He would later die of leukemia.

Diane Patrick says her new love, whom she married in 1984, was the big reason she recovered from a "horrific marriage.

Singer, songwriter and Berkshires resident James Taylor talks with Gov. Deval Patrick backstage before Patrick and his wife, Diane, were interviewed by
Singer, songwriter and Berkshires resident James Taylor talks with Gov. Deval Patrick backstage before Patrick and his wife, Diane, were interviewed by Alan Chartock at the Colonial Theatre on Sunday. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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"Deval was my strength all the way through," she said.

"I didn't know what to say or do," added the governor, "but I loved Diane and I wanted her to know that."

The Patricks' discussion of their early years came during an hourlong conversation Sunday afternoon with Alan Chartock, president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio. The couple's personal lives were center stage at the Colonial Theatre in an event co-sponsored by The Berkshire Eagle.

A near-capacity crowd listened intently to the Patricks discuss their past together leading up to Deval Patrick's being the first African-American elected governor of Massachusetts almost seven years ago. The couple also delved into the married life of the state's first couple and their future plans when the governor leaves office. Deval Patrick, 56, has said he won't seek re-election in the fall of 2014.

Chartock, a weekly columnist for The Eagle, began the conversation with a simple question: How did they meet?

What followed was a story all to familiar to thousands of women across the country -- how to escape an emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive relationship with a man.

Diane Patrick, 61, described how it took three tries to finally leave her first husband for good. She said their rocky relationship turned life-threatening when her then-husband pointed a gun to her head after she came back to him a second time.

"If you ever leave me again, I will kill you," she recalled him saying.

As her marriage continued to spiral, she was introduced by friends to Deval Patrick, who felt he was the kind of man she should get to know. As the Patricks relationship began to blossom, Diane, with Deval's support, finally got the courage to seek a divorce.

However, Mrs. Patrick said she feared her ex-husband until his death, shortly after she and Deval relocated to her native New York City in 1983.

"The day he died was the first day I didn't look in my rearview mirror for him," she said. "The day he died was a day of liberation."

Married in 1984, the Patricks moved to Massachusetts in 1986 following the birth of the first of two daughters, Sarah and Katherine. Diane Patrick continued to practice law and is currently a partner at Boston law firm.

Deval Patrick is a Harvard Law School graduate whose legal career includes a stint as an Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s.

Patrick was first elected governor in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. During his tenure at the Statehouse, the Chicago native has found many elected officials underestimate the wisdom of the general public, something he's learned not to do.

Gov. Deval Patrick and moderator Alan Chartock listen while Patrick’s wife, Diane, discusses the couple’s past, present and future.
Gov. Deval Patrick and moderator Alan Chartock listen while Patrick’s wife, Diane, discusses the couple’s past, present and future. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"You need to tell them the truth, tell them what you believe and live with the consequences," he said.

Patrick is also keeping a promise to himself and his family that his political career begins and ends with being governor.

"I have the only job in politics I ever wanted and the only one I ever had," he said. "By not making [politics] my career, I can focus on my job."

Patrick wants to return to the private sector, possibly as the head of a company. His wife says she plans to retire in five years from practicing law and return to early childhood education. The former teacher feels the need to help parents understand the importance of an early education and proper nutrition for their children.

"The first 18 months is where you create magic or a problem that will last the rest of their lives," she said.

The Patricks say they plan to retire to their second home in Richmond. Diane Patrick noted how retirement means her husband will need a refresher course on driving, losing the gubernatorial perk of being chauffeured to and from their Milton home.

"He's forgotten how to drive a car, but [at least] not how to put out the garbage on Thursdays," she said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.