After Adoption Struggle, Wedding Plans A Paralegal Helped A Single Father Win His Day In Court. Now She'll Join Him At The Altar.

Posted: January 10, 1995

Keith Lussier's successful battle in Bucks County last year to keep his infant daughter - and an attack by a swarm of bees - has won him a wife as well.

Lussier, 28, said yesterday that he and Jennifer Donnelly, 27, a paralegal in the law firm that handled his custody case, would marry April 22.

They met when Lussier, of Cheektowaga, N.Y., came to Bucks County last summer to fight a legal struggle to regain and keep a Korean-born baby that he and his late wife had been in the process of adopting.

"I was definitely not looking for (a romance). It just happened. Everybody was thinking it was so soon, and it was a little tough at first. But it just felt right," said Lussier.

"It was not love at first sight, but I was impressed with the way he was fighting for his (parental) rights and that he represented a lot of single parents," said Donnelly, the single parent of a daughter, Chaisley, 6.

Lussier said he had met and talked briefly with Donnelly in the Bensalem law office of Kellis and Totaro, but it was bees that played Cupid for them.

The bees got into the act on Aug. 30, when Lussier was reunited with his daughter, Brittany, then 10 months old, at the Furlong home of his lawyer, Samuel Totaro Jr.

The law firm's staff, including Donnelly and her daughter, were invited to Totaro's home to help celebrate the reunion. Children playing on the lawn disturbed a nest of bees in a bush. Donnelly was stung twice and her daughter six times.

The next day, after Lussier returned to his New York home, he telephoned Donnelly to tell her he was sorry about the incident. The next night, she phoned him. And then he called, and then she called, and later they dated, and ''it just steamrolled," said Donnelly.

Love the Children, a Quakertown adoption agency, had placed Brittany with Lussier and his wife, Kimberly, in February 1994. But Kimberly Lussier died of cancer on July 17, before the adoption became final.

The agency, enforcing its policy against single-parent adoptions, took Brittany from Lussier six days after his wife's death and, within 10 hours, placed the child with a Massachusetts couple who intended to adopt her.

But Lussier went to court to get Brittany back, and in late August, after three days of hearings, Bucks County Orphans Court Judge Leonard B. Sokolove ordered the girl returned to Lussier and declared him her legal father.

Lussier and Donnelly said they will be married in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Andorra.

They are in the process of buying a four-bedroom colonial house in Upper Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County. His home in New York is for sale.

Donnelly said she planned to adopt Brittany after the wedding to become the legal mother of the child.

Lussier said that he would be "Mister Mom" for the time being, staying at home to take care of Chaisley and Brittany, but that eventually he planned to go to night school to become a paralegal.

Meanwhile, Vin DiBona Productions of Los Angeles is planning a two-hour television movie tentatively titled A Father's Right: The Keith Lussier Story.

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