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Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)

June 24, 1996


When Donald Robideau finally came out of his house in rural Royalston just after 1 p.m. on Father’s Day, the police breathed a sigh of relief that their two-hour standoff with the heavily armed man had ended.  But the story wasn’t yet over. Robideau looked at the town police chief, whom he liked, and said, “Sorry.” Then he put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger, so ending his life of pain.

“He was not a happy man, but he tried his best,” said his wife, Linda Robideau.   Friday, the new widow sat in the shabby-genteel funeral parlor of Graham, Putnam & Mahoney on Main Street, Worcester. The body of her husband lay nearby in a closed casket, and on a coat stand were his favorite leather jacket and a T-shirt picturing three Vietnam veterans.

The couple first met through a mutual friend in 1982.  “I had two little kids, and my youngest son, Anthony, was special needs,” Linda Robideau said. “If men were interested in me, after seeing the kids they weren’t.” Don Robideau was, though, and they married a year later.   “The first two years were wonderful,” she said. “He was always there for the kids. He got his truck driver’s license and started driving, but then he hurt his back and went on disability, and started having nightmares and the sweats and an inability to cope.

“They put him in therapy and gave him anti-depressants. He would be on the drugs for a couple of years, then he would go off them to see if he could cope. But he always went back on them.”  The latest drug was Prozac, prescribed for Robideau three weeks ago. He started sleeping during the day and sitting up at night, his wife said. And he was already in what had become an annual cycle of depression.

“From April to July every year he had a hard time,” she said. “That was when he usually got depressed and made suicide attempts.”   Yes, he had talked about suicide before, but his wife had always been able to talk him around. This time, though, she sensed a crisis. All day Saturday he was depressed, and the talk often turned to doing away with himself.

“He offered to take me with him,” she said, “and I almost agreed. We really loved each other so much. But I have a 16-year-old son to bring up.”  On that Saturday night she called friends from a veterans shelter who came to speak to the distraught man, and seemed to calm him down. His wife wasn’t convinced, though.

“He said, “I’ll fix it in the morning,’ and I knew what he meant,” she said.    When he went to sleep that night she left, taking her son Anthony with her. The next morning, from Worcester, she called the police. When they arrived at the house the standoff began. Inside, Robideau had half a dozen semiautomatic rifles and a homemade bomb made from a propane tank rigged with gunpowder.   “He took his own life as the final solution,” Linda Robideau said. “He could have hurt other people, but he didn’t.”

Others spoke of the generosity and sensitivity in this complicated man who loved guns and knives.   “I was down on my luck last Christmas,” said longtime friend Barry Zagrodnik of Holyoke. “I lost my job and lost my apartment. Don found out and brought me to Royalston for Christmas, and gave me money to buy presents for my kids. He may have had a dark side, but it was something I was never privy to.”

“He thought he was doing me a favor,” said Linda Robideau. “He thought I would be better off without him, but I won’t be.”   Some people in this world seem destined not to be happy. Even with therapy, drugs and a good family, there are those whose lives play out like tragedies, who live in a state of profound despair that apparently can take them only one place, to the wooden box in the funeral parlor, where relatives cry and a priest tries to give comfort.

“He did the best he could,” said the Rev. Joe Coonan. “You come into this world, you take the blows life gives you, and you do the best you can.”   Donald Robideau certainly did that. But in the end he just got tired of fighting his terrible demons of darkness, and the best he could do was to say sorry and choose death.

Record Number:  9606249557