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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mary Gage, former abuse victim, dies

The South Lyndeborough woman rescued from 40 years of domestic abuse when ambulance personnel rushed her, near death, from her Glass Factory Road home in 2004 has died.

Mary Sanborn Gage, whose emotion-filled case sparked disbelief and outrage from near and far of the four decades of abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, Peter Gage, and son, Lyman, died quietly Thursday at a Milford nursing home, friends said.

She was 81. Services, which are private, are pending.

Peter Gage remains in prison, where he was sentenced to serve 4 to 18 years. He was denied parole in 2008, Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons said, after he refused to express remorse or take responsibility for his actions.

His next chance for parole is in 2013, Lyons said.

Lyman Gage received a suspended sentence and two years’ probation, which has expired, Lyons said.

After recovering from her extensive injuries, Mary Gage summoned the strength, buoyed by support from a close-knit group of friends, to confront her husband at his sentencing.

“It’s a wonderful thing to realize that he can’t get to me anymore, because I spent years not saying anything,” she said in a soft, but firm, voice. “I was made to understand he couldn’t get away with this behavior anymore, and I feel a tremendous load off my head that I can finally say what he did to me.”

While her husband and principal tormenter was in prison for the foreseeable future, Mary Gage still never really recovered from the years of abuse, former longtime neighbor and friend Peter Lord said.

“Mary had nightmares until the day she died,” he said. “Every time a door opened, she’d (jump); even her own bed wasn’t a safe place, to her.”

But there were good days, Lord said, when the “bright, caring, loving, talented” Mary Gage emerged, delighting those around her.

“She could finally talk to people, people who valued what she said,” Lord said. “She added a lot to the discussion groups they had at the nursing home. She often even led them.”

Mary Gage took to TV right away, a rather curious pastime for a woman educated at Wellesley and Smith colleges and well versed on many subjects.

“She could never watch TV at home,” Lord said. “She loved watching PBS and The History Channel. They were her favorites.”

Martha Rogers recalls the years of fun she and her husband enjoyed with Peter and Mary Gage when they were members of the former Groton Hunt Club.

“We had some awfully good times. I used to think Peter was kind of bossy,” Rogers said of the revelations that led to his arrest, “but I never thought there was anything like that going on.”

After Mary Gage returned home, neighbors gathered often and threw her an annual Christmas party, Rogers said.

“Mary was a wonderful artist, too,” Rogers said. “She loved doing reproductions of famous horse paintings the most.”

On Feb. 25, 2004, the decades of dysfunction and dark secrets at the Gage family home came to light. Led by new Police Chief James Basinas, investigators traced the leads of what happened to Mary Gage back to Glass Factory Road.

Peter Gage, 70 at the time, was in custody in short order, facing charges of attempted murder, felonious sexual assault, first- and second-degree assault, witness tampering and criminal restraint for strangling his wife, locking her inside their home and beating her to the point she needed emergency medical attention for severe bruising all over her body.

Again buoyed by her circle of support, Mary Gage took her newfound sense of liberation a step further, filing for divorce from the man she feared for four decades. She also won a court OK to return home, where, for the first time in 40 years, she could come and go, watch TV, walk and feed her horses and do anything else she pleased.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 31, or dshalhoup@nashua