Father Gets His Baby Back In A Cape Cod Reunion, Keith Lussier And His Daughter Had Their First Meeting Since A Six-week Adoption Fight Began.

Posted: August 31, 1994

Keith Lussier got his daughter back yesterday.

In a joyous Massachusetts reunion orchestrated furtively across four states, the New York widower hugged 10-month-old Brittany Lussier for the first time in almost six weeks.

"I was a little bit nervous," Lussier said. "She looked at me, and I talked to her. She stared at me a little bit," but within a few minutes "she smiled and laughed."

It happened at a private 4 p.m. meeting at a social worker's home in Duxbury, Mass., said Samuel Totaro Jr., Lussier's lawyer.

The two men flew from Philadelphia to Boston early yesterday afternoon. They returned with Brittany in a white limousine, pulling into the driveway of Totaro's central Bucks County home at 10:10 p.m.

The limousine eased to a stop in front of a bank of television cameras and microphones assembled outside Totaro's front door.

The child was sleeping when she arrived but blinked calmly into the television lights as Lussier lifted her from a car seat, wrapped her gently in a yellow blanket, and stepped up to the microphones.

"This is Brittany Young Lussier - my daughter," he said. ". . . I can't express how happy I am right now. As you can see, she's pretty happy, too."

The reunion capped a back-and-forth legal dispute between Lussier and Love the Children, a Quakertown adoption agency.

The agency had placed the Korean-born baby with Lussier and his wife, Kimberly, in February. But Kimberly Lussier died of cancer on July 17, before the adoption was final.

Love the Children, strictly enforcing its policy against single-parent adoptions, took the baby from Keith Lussier six days after his wife's death. Within 10 hours, the child was placed with an unidentified Massachusetts couple who intended to adopt her.

Lussier went to court to get Brittany back. Last week, Bucks County Orphans Court Judge Leonard B. Sokolove ordered the girl returned to Lussier and declared him her legal father.

Love the Children appealed to Superior Court. On Friday, the appellate court issued a temporary stay that blocked Lussier from claiming Brittany. Although Love the Children's appeal is still pending, the stay was lifted late Monday afternoon, clearing the way for Lussier to see her.

A flurry of phone calls ensued on Monday night.

Paul R. Rosen, Love the Children's lawyer, said he called the agency immediately after receiving word of the court's ruling at his New Jersey beach home. Rosen offered to seek another emergency stay in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, but agency officials refused, he said.

Rosen then made the difficult phone call to the Massachusetts couple - parents who have adopted one Korean child through Love the Children and who recently watched Brittany take her first wobbly steps.

"It was an emotional thing for the couple, who have fallen in love with this child and who want to adopt her," Rosen said. "They are very much concerned about the impact on their other child, who has grown to love her as well."

Even so, the couple was forthright, he said.

"We made a decision at that time that there was no reason in the world (not) to do this as quickly as possible," he said. "I received their consent, so long as Brittany was not subject to any publicity at all at the time of the transfer."

Totaro said yesterday's trip to Boston was arranged by Channel 10 reporter Herb Denenberg, who said he had managed to contact the Massachusetts couple and work out the transfer.

By 10:45 a.m. yesterday, Totaro and Lussier were bounding happily out of Totaro's law office, dressed casually in sports shirts as if heading off for a round of golf.

"We're going out for a cup of coffee," Totaro told a reporter, straight- faced, as he and Lussier piled into a teal-colored minivan that would take them to Philadelphia International Airport.

Lussier said the Massachusetts couple were not present when he received Brittany. "I'm sure I will be talking to them in the very near future," he said. "I want to thank them for taking such good care of my daughter." He said he felt sympathy for them.

Lussier said Brittany had grown during their separation. "She's a lot bigger. I think she has put on a few pounds," he said.

Totaro, looking on with a smile, said, "It's probably the nicest case I've had in 20 years. . . . By the way, he's already changed two diapers."

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