Katherine Power was not short of material when she finally sat down to write her memoir.
She has been an obedient Catholic daughter.
A college revolutionary.
Not just a fugitive, but the woman with the longest run on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
She was the ‘70s radical who came in from the cold after 23 years living inconspicuously as Alice Metzinger, a deceased infant whose birth certificate she had obtained. “Alice” finally told her husband and son her real name and confessed to her family that she was wanted for her role in a 1970 bank robbery that ended in the murder of a Boston police officer.
When she turned herself in back in 1993, resulting in six years in Framingham Prison and 20 years on probation, it was worldwide news.
“I made a really misguided decision to take up war against the government,” said Power, who has made Concord her home for almost 20 years. “It felt like our government was making war on us, and the Black Panthers, and actually using live ammunition against college students.”
For Power, it did not start with guns.
College students around the country were protesting the Vietnam War and Power was an organizer with the National Student Strike Force when she met Stanley Ray Bond, an ex-con on parole attending Brandeis as part of a government-sponsored program. The charismatic Bond brought in two convicts also in the college program, William Gilday and Robert Valeri, alongside Power and her friend, Susan Saxe.
The plot: first rob a National Guard Armory in Newburyport for weapons and then rob a Brighton bank to help fund the Black Panthers.
Power was waiting in the switch car for her three companions during the bank robbery when Gilday shot Schroeder.
“Sometimes we thought there was a way to make that war stop. We told ourselves we could … we stole weapons, we robbed a bank,” she said quietly. “And Officer Walter Schroeder was killed — and I became a fugitive.”
Both Power and Saxe took shelter in women’s communes, while the three men were soon captured.
“Law enforcement started to see that women could be real threats,” Power said.
Saxe was captured in 1975. Power stayed underground, working across the country before landing in Portland. As she created a new life for herself — a son, a husband, her own successful restaurant —she was dropped from the FBI’s Most Wanted list in June 1984.
“They thought I wasn’t a danger anymore, or I was dead,” Power said. “But as far as being on the list at all — I’ve had FBI agents apologize to me. I’ve had police officers say, ‘you’re carrying a lot for an act that didn’t really belong to you.”
Her FBI poster is now a collectible, selling for $49.99 on eBay. Her recently released memoir, Surrender: My Journey from Guerrilla to Grandmother, is cheaper and available at The Concord Bookshop and online.
“There’s a reason why I called this memoir ‘Surrender,’” Power said. “There was this event that had a lot of people stop and say, ‘How is this something that happened to this person? How could she hide for so long, have another life and just turn herself in?’ It moved people.”
During her six years in prison, Power earned a bachelor’s degree through the Boston University Prison Education Program. Upon her release, she reunited with her Oregon family and went on to receive a master’s degree in philosophy, ethics, and writing from Oregon State University, where she also taught writing.
Sitting at a picnic table beside the Nashoba Brook, Power recalled coming to Concord and feeling at home. She was surrounded by nature, farms, the town’s authors, and its place in history. With the support of the woman who became her wife, she gathered journals and old writings and began piecing together her memoir.
Coincidentally, it was ready just in time for the end of her 20 years of probation, which included a caveat by Judge Robert Banks prohibiting any attempt to profit from her story.
“I was and am a very social person,” Power said. “I need to be doing the right thing. I need to be seen as a good person. In my last chapter, called ‘Grandmother,’ I talk about my life now. I’m still atoning. I spend some part of every day in grief.
“How could I not?” she added. “The state of our world demands our attention. But I also spend part of every day in a joyful way.”