April 11, 1996
I was actually on the Today show via remote camera from the front of my store, invited to be on Montel Williams, and was given Jane Pauley’s home phone number so I could call her and be interviewed.
Every local newscaster from the Cape to Boston came to my store and I was quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country.
All at the expense of a little seven year old’s life. Her name was Jess Hathaway. Her parents, who were divorced, encouraged her to be the youngest pilot to cross the country and her plane crashed killing her, her father and her instructor.
Jess, her brother Josh, and their mom, Lisa, had lived in my town for a few years and were at my store every day. I owned a health food store. My father and I got to know them well.
Lisa, the mom, lived an alternative life style. She home taught her children, they didn’t have toys and Lisa was severely ridiculed by the press for the life they led. Rumors flew like wildfire.
There was so much stuff about them in the news that was total fabrication. It taught me to never believe what you hear in the news. There was a picture of me in one of the Boston papers with the caption “Joan **** weeps as she hears the news” Well, I wasn’t weeping at the time the photo was taken. It was just a bad photo. Though I did cry when I first heard the news.
My sister worked at the local newspaper at the time and gave my name to someone from the Associated Press. Little did she know that within an hour, every form of media would show up at my little store.
One newspaper said that Lisa and her children squatted in a rundown shack in our town. They quoted a policeman as saying that. The truth was they rented a cute little brand new house just down the street. I had been there. It was clean, the kids were happy. They did quite well without Walmart toys. Time magazine said they lived a vegetarian lifestyle as if that made them all crazy.
I remember when Jess and her brother came in the store so excited because they had planted a garden and begged me to come over after work to see it. Of course I did and praised their wonderful work. I lent them books about astronomy. I always gave them any food I could rather than throw it away. One newspaper said they begged for food. So untrue. They never asked for anything.
The two kids had a paper route and their mom let them keep the money. They saved some, bought themselves treats at the store, bought books. One magazine said their mother forced them to do the paper route and give her the money. The kids were so proud of their paper route. They were young at the time. Jess was probably 5 and Josh 7. Their mom always went with them. They were always together.
That’s why I ended up on the Today show, to straighten out some of the rumors. I refused to go on any other show. I didn’t want to make a mockery out of their lives.
It happened almost 12 years ago. I have recently seen Josh who is in college. Both kids were so smart. Probably because in the evenings they didn’t sit in front of the TV. Lisa would read to them or they would listen to music and dance or they would craft stuff. During the day they were always out on their bicycles with their mom. You couldn’t miss them. All three bikes had big flags on the back of them so cars couldn’t miss seeing them.
My father loved it when the kids came in because they were so talkative and friendly and funny. Lisa, the mom, was definitely a different kind of person, but she wasn’t the “Bizarre Mom” Time magazine said she was.
I finally called the local newspaper and asked if they would print a true article about her and they did.
I’m not here to judge the parents. Would I have let my children fly at that age? I doubt it. The one thing I do know is that Lisa was a good mother and loved her children and they led happy lives. Those children never felt deprived because they didn’t have a TV or Walmart toys.
Keep in mind, when they crashed the instructor was sitting right next to Jess with his hands on his own controls. It was his decision to fly the plane with extra weight on it during a sudden heavy rainstorm, which is why the plane crashed. But somehow Lisa got blamed, just because she was different.