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A Family Saga

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Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
The following is part 1 of a series from the Houston Chronicle. You can
access the hypertext version at the Chronicle Homepage -

A family saga

Both lived in solitude and were searching for answers. Ted is suspected of
being the
Unabomber. David turned him in.

Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle

TERLINGUA -- The Kaczynski brothers both sought to solve their father's
riddle. One got it

It was a game learned at the dinner table years ago. Theodore Kaczynski,
their father, loved
pushing back after a good meal and playing a game of verbal survival with
Richard Radl, his
devoutly atheistic friend in Iowa.

What would you do, they asked each other, if you were all alone out there in
nature, with
nothing to live on but your wits? The two men enjoyed inventing situations in
which rational
minds did battle with the dangerous chaos of nature.

Wanda Kaczynski, the boys' mother, was also a self-taught intellectual who
joined with her
husband in equipping the boys with a searching curiosity, biting skepticism
and a reverence for
knowledge. There was never a simple answer to anything.

So when David and his older brother, Ted, went out into the world -- David
from Columbia
University, Ted from Harvard --they made their father's intellectual puzzle
their lives.

Both lived in solitude, David in the searing reaches of West Texas, Ted in
the cold mountain
forests of Montana. Both considered themselves writers and believed the
ultimate vindication
of their lives would be books. They started from the same place and set out
on the same
mission, but their paths took them to the opposite poles of the human

David is now a social worker and family man, admired and loved by the people
who know
him. Ted is the bizarre hermit accused by the FBI of being the Unabomber.

In the summer of 1987, David Kaczynski was walking in the West Texas desert
with his friend,
Juan Sanchez. Dazed, delusional from thirst and over-exposure, weighted by
the heavy pack on
his back, David began turning in circles, turning and turning, telling
Sanchez he could see house
lights all around them in the desert night. Sanchez spoke to him in a calm,
authoritative voice,
telling him there were no lights, only stars, and that he needed to keep
walking straight ahead,
no matter what.

This was the closest David, then 37, ever had come to the edge. It was the
test his father had
enjoyed talking about, in strictly theoretical terms, when David and Ted were
growing up.

But an important difference in the lives of the brothers was that David, the
younger one, found
simplicity and certitude in his friend who walked the desert with him.
Sanchez, a Mexican
Indian farmhand who was 24 years older than David, gave him strong, simple
answers to some
of life's difficult issues, including loneliness, not available in the
rigorous intellectualism of the

One blossomed, one shriveled

Drawn back to the center of life, David Kaczynski blossomed and grew. In the
same period, his
older brother shriveled, curled into a spiritual ball, never came in from the
void until the FBI
brought him back in shackles. In the story of David's quest for personal
happiness, there is
much to learn about Ted's descent into a personal hell.

For the people who knew David during his years of seclusion here in the
desert, the most
remarkable, haunting aspect of his search for truth was the part he kept
almost perfectly hidden
from them: that just as he was achieving his own serenity, he was coming to
the conclusion that
his brother had become not merely mad but a monster. And that it was his job,
his duty and his
moral responsibility to do something about it.

Ted Kaczynski was arrested April 3 because his brother turned him in. Since
then, David has
been in deep seclusion with his wife, Linda Patrik, and his mother, Wanda
Kaczynski, in their
home in Schenectady, N.Y. In his only interview, David Kaczynski told The New
York Times
that he thinks his brother "has been a disturbed person for a long time and
he's gotten more
disturbed."But he said he admired his brother's "purity" and made a plea for
his life:

"It serves no one's interest to put him to death," he said, "and certainly,
it would be an
incredible anguish for our family if that were to happen."

Joe La Follette, a teacher in San Benito, is a friend of David's who has
taken long hikes with
him in the desert over the years, discussing literature, politics and life
along the way. "Every
day that goes by," La Follette said, "I think of what he is going through and
what he must have
been through already."

Violence denounced

On a very few occasions during their long hikes, David discussed his brother,
Ted. On one
occasion La Follette, then in his 20s, spoke angrily to David about the U.S.
role in Nicaragua.
On another occasion he showed Kaczynski an essay he had written about the
automobile and
how technology was ruining the planet. While they walked, Kaczynski told La
Follette he
reminded him of his brother in Montana and took him to task for espousing

"He just said, `I'm sorry you think violence is a solution,' " La Follette

Their conversations about Ted, however brief, were enough to give La Follette
a peek into
David's feelings about his brother, including his fear of him.

"I think of David thinking about his brother all that time," La Follette
said, "remembering all
these little clues, and eventually the clues make a big bridge, and David has
to go over that
bridge. I bet if his brother had known that David knew anything about him
during that time, he
would have killed him."

The community here in the vast Chihuahuan desert, west of Big Bend National
Park where the
Rio Grande marks the border with Mexico, is a far-flung, ragtag collection of
eccentrics, desert
rats, ranchers and retirees. Terlingua Ranch, where David lived, is a
development of 200,000
acres put together in the late 1960s by Dallas businessman David Witt and
auto racer Carroll
Shelby. It includes the ghost town of Terlingua and has been subdivided into
parcels of
anywhere from five to several hundred acres. David lived at one extreme reach
of the
development, on a parcel of land accessible only by four-wheel-drive during
much of the year.

Even though people here live far apart, they tend to know each other, and
many people knew
and liked David. Sandy Fiedler lives here with her husband and children and
has known David
since the early 1980s. She said, "I really feel for him. Can you imagine? The
man who came all
the way out here for seclusion, and now he's got the whole world watching

This is the true American outback, and it has its own privacy ethic. Barbara
Maugher, who
works in the land office at Terlingua Ranch, said the usual rule is, "Don't

"All kinds of people come out here for all kinds of reasons," Maugher said.
"Some people
come here to find their dreams, some to lose their dreams. Whatever."

After David Kaczynski graduated from Columbia in 1970, he returned to the
small town of
Lisbon, Iowa, where his family had lived for a few years, and took a job as a
Only a year earlier, his older brother, Ted, the one always held up as the
family genius, had
walked away from a tenure-track university teaching position at the
University of California's
Berkeley campus. The consensus of Ted's students and fellow faculty members
at the time was
that, genius or not, he was a terrible teacher.

David was a wonderful teacher, according to both his students and his fellow
teachers in

"He was a nice guy," said Doug Whitney, who still teaches in Lisbon. "Quiet,
common as an old shoe. Used to have this contest every week where the kids
would take out the
unabridged dictionary and see if they could find a word in it he didn't know
the meaning of. He
had to buy ice cream if he lost. Lost one time, I think. But he wanted to
write a book, be an

Life in the desert

During his two years in Lisbon, David did complete a novel, which was never
published. He
left his teaching job and began splitting his time between a summer job
driving a bus in a
Chicago suburb and winters living in a van in the desert. In 1983 he bought
land at Terlingua
Ranch. He lived first in a hole -- a common arrangement here, called a "pit
house" by locals --
and then in a tiny plywood cabin he built himself.

Life in the desert for David was a constantly exciting exploration, according
to Tim Bennett, a
former student of his in Lisbon who kept up his friendship and visited David
many times in

"He was very interested in the Indians," Bennett said. "He always said, if
you really think about
the Indians, there is so much common sense to what the Indians did. Once we
were walking
way, way out, where we had never been, and we found some water in a hole from
a spring. We
stopped there. We were cooking on a mesquite fire on some rocks, and he said,
`Tim, if you
were an Indian, where would you sit to protect yourself from the sun here?'
He answered his
own question. He said, `Right over there, that's where I'd be.'

"He went over there, and he found 10 holes in the rock of the type the
Indians made to grind
wheat in. Then he said, `If you were to build a fire around here, where would
you build it?' He
said, `I'd build it right here.' We turned and looked where he was pointing,
and we found chips
of flint all around a fire-ring."

"Every day had a high point like that for him. He had a life down there that
anybody would
dream of, a life that somebody sitting in an office in Chicago would dream of
doing. He did it."

David also worked on a second novel during this time, carrying the manuscript
and writing
materials with him in a heavy pack on his back. But the subject of writing
was the one area of
his life in which David Kaczynski was not serene.

Joe La Follette remembered when, in the course of one of his long hikes with
David, David
showed him a short story he had written. "I didn't like it, and I told him
why. He got mad. He
got really mad. Then later I sent him stuff I was writing, and he got real
super-critical about it."

La Follette also remembered David's interest in Indians. David had read the
works of Carlos
Castaneda, a series of novels in which a young American academic wanders the
desert with a
Mexican Indian who imparts to him the ancient wisdom of his people.

`The noble savage'

La Follette said David was enamored of what La Follette called "the noble
savage thing," and
he said that role was filled in David's life by Sanchez, the Mexican Indian
laborer he met when
Sanchez was working on the grounds crew of the tourist lodge at Terlingua.

"That's why he made friends with Juan," La Follette said.

At first Sanchez was a paid tutor, teaching David Spanish. As Sanchez
remembers, that part
didn't take very long. "I taught him to speak and read Spanish in three
months,"he said.

In 1987, David accompanied Sanchez into Mexico to meet his family. On the way
back into the
United States, Sanchez had to sneak over the border on foot at night, because
he did not have
proper documentation. David, who was carrying his manuscript on his back,
refused to part
company with him and insisted on crossing 25 miles of desert with him.

Sanchez was dubious. He carried only the clothes on his back, a blanket and a
bottle of water
tied up in a wet sock. He would never have set out the way David did, with a
heavy pack on his
back and not enough water. But he could not explain to David why he did not
want him to come.

Eventually, Sanchez said, David drank all his water and Sanchez's, too. "He
was very, very
thirsty. He thought he was going to die."

In the view of David's friend, La Follette, who was not there that night, the
difference between
David Kaczynski and Juan Sanchez was the backpack and its contents.

"David and that backpack, that was his office," La Follette said. "David is a
writer, and he had
to have his manuscript with him. Juan was beyond that. He didn't need that.
Juan is an Indian,
and David is a gringo. That's why."

By talking to David and keeping him going that night, Sanchez saved his life.
He said David,
who had always been respectful of him, showed an even deeper respect after
that night, almost
a dependence. Sanchez took it as an opportunity to tell the younger man what
he thought he
needed to hear.

"I told him it was good for an old man like me to live alone in the
mountains," Sanchez said,
"but not for a young man like him. I told him he needed to find a wife and
get married."

When David objected that he didn't know anyone to marry, Sanchez probed and
found there was
a lost love in his life. Linda Patrik, a girl he had known in the suburbs
south of Chicago, had
gone on to become a philosophy professor at Union College near Schenectady.
Sanchez told
David he should propose to her.

When David said he didn't know how to approach a woman in such a way, Sanchez
said he
could help. Sanchez had learned to write as a young man because he had lost
his own first love
to another young man who knew how to compose letters of courtship. Since
then, Sanchez had
written courtship letters for other men on several occasions over the years.

"I told him I would write the letter for him in Spanish, and he could
translate it into English,"
Sanchez said, "and so that's what we did. Twenty-two days later, he received
a letter asking
him to come to New York."

Within a few months, David and Linda Patrik were visiting each other. On one
of her visits to
Terlingua, she helped civilize his cabin, working with him to paint and
finish it off. In a new
concrete footing beneath one corner of the cabin, they scratched a heart and
their initials with a

Requests for money

During this same period in the late 1980s, Ted Kaczynski was writing curt,
enigmatic letters to
David, asking him for money -- $1,000 in one request, $2,000 in another a
short time later,
substantial sums for men of the brothers' very modest means.

"There was no explanation of why he needed the money," Sanchez said. "David
was worried
about him. He asked me to write to him and try to find out if he was sick or
in jail or something
like that."

In the seven years of correspondence that ensued, Sanchez learned that Ted,
like his brother,
was trying to solve every puzzle in the universe except the one he needed to
resolve -- the
riddle of his own loneliness. Sanchez told Ted, too, that he needed to find a
wife and have

In 1990, David Kaczynski married Linda Patrik, and from that point on,
Sanchez said, the older
brother's attitude was much darker.

"It's like a family in Mexico,"Sanchez said. "One brother does better. He
gets more. The other
is angry."

In years of listening to Ted rail against the modern world, of trying with
Juan's help to figure
out what was really going on in Ted's life, of walking with young friends
like La Follette and
listening to them struggle with some of the same issues, David had come to
recognize certain
recurring themes. Some was generic social criticism of the times, typical of
people who revere
nature and mistrust technology. But some themes and turns of phrase were
emblematic of Ted's

Both brothers were still writing. Neither had yet published.

Last fall when The New York Times and The Washington Post complied with an
FBI request
and published the Unabomber's 35,000-word "manifesto," David read it and
heard the written
voice of his brother.

By then, David had solved the riddle of his own life. He had found the answer
not in pure logic
or wild nature but in the simple wisdom of an older man and in the timeless
grace of traditional
Mexican letters of courtship. Ted had found only chaos and cruelty.

Everyone who knew the parents remembers them as intelligent, interesting,
congenial, morally
responsible people. Perhaps the real riddle is why their sons, equipped with
so much learning,
began their lives knowing so little.


Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
The following is part 2 of a series from the Houston Chronicle. You can
access the hypertext version at the Chronicle Homepage -

Back Of The Yards

Unabomb suspect's family led humble life in Chicago

Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle

CHICAGO -- The poor neighborhoods around 49th and Ashland are far less noisy
foul-smelling now than they were when Ted Kaczynski was a little boy here.

But the relative quiet and cleaner air are wages of stagnation and economic
decay. The stink in
the 1940s was the smell of money.

People who had fled Europe between the wars, people up from rural peonage in
the South,
people from all over the world fell over themselves then to get into the area
called "Back of the
Yards"where there were lots and lots of jobs.

The stench of the stockyards was overpowering on some days, something people
didn't get used
to even if they were born to it. Tom Lebensorger, a retired postal worker,
was a little boy
living in Back of the Yards when Ted Kaczynski -- the man suspected of being
the Unabomber
-- lived there as a child.

"Back of the Yards, for a mile or so around there, you could always smell it,
the rendering and
the killing and the ammonia, whatever they were doing," Lebensorger said.
"And at 9 or 10
years old, your nose is the best it's ever going to be."

In 1906, the area served as the setting for muckraking author Upton
Sinclair's groundbreaking
book, The Jungle. Beginning in the 1930s, Back of the Yards was the scene of
social activist
Saul David Alinsky's first major grass-roots community organizing efforts,
which some
historians deem a key ingredient in the explosion of social activism in this
country and in
Europe in the 1960s.

Ted Kaczynksi's parents, Theodore R. and Wanda Kaczynski, came straight out
of that milieu.
They met each other in the late 1930s in a Saul Alinsky hiking club for
young, single social
progressives. They were both American-born but fluent in Polish, both high
school graduates
and self-taught intellectuals. They shared the anti-clerical agnosticism of
many of their peers, a
feeling sharpened by the opposition then of the Catholic clergy in Chicago to
most of the
Alinsky movement.

Tom Lebensorger's parents met each other in the same walking club. "They
hiked in the western
suburbs and in the Indiana Dunes," he said, "and they talked."

The discussion group was devoted especially to the cause of unionizing the
stockyards. Its
ideals may have been egalitarian, but the structure of the group was not.
Social scientists and
graduate students from the University of Chicago did the leading and the
coaching. People like
Ted and Wanda, ethnic high school graduates not bound for higher education,
were their
grateful apprentices.

It was a setting in which power, class and wisdom were closely tied to
intellectual attainment,
in a period of history when social intellectualism was at its height, when
all problems seemed
solvable if only people could be smart enough, moral enough and progressive
enough to work
out the right answers. Theodore R. Kaczynski and his wife, Wanda, lived for
books and
intellectual self-improvement.

John Suski sold sausage casings to the small sausage-making establishments
then scattered all
over ethnic Chicago. At that time Theodore Kaczynski was helping run a small
plant and delicatessen at 49th and Ashland, owned by his brother. The little
sausage factory is
now a semi-abandoned relic, windows partially boarded, slumped against a
viaduct that used
to carry freight trains to the yards. The neighborhood is African-American

"Knowing Ted, the father, I could never imagine him being a sausage maker,"
Suski said. "He
was far too intelligent. But that's what he was doing."

Kaczynski was one of the early makers to begin experimenting with synthetic
casings for his

"When they started doing that,"Suski said, "they were using formaldehyde to
form a casing. Of
course, nobody advertised that, so you were getting pickled before you died."

Many years later Theodore Kaczynski told a neighbor in Lombard, Ill., that he
had missed out
on becoming a rich man because he hadn't known to take out a patent on the
artificial sausage
casing he had developed while working for his brother. Somewhere along the
line, Theodore
Kaczynski's pure-minded intellectual progressivism had gotten mixed together
with some good
old American entrepreneurial ambition.

But it wasn't necessarily surprising that a life in Back of the Yards might
lead to dreams of
upward mobility and new frontiers. It was an exciting place. Lebensorger was
too young at the
time to remember it himself, but he vividly recalls his father's descriptions
of the scene outside
the "drovers' bank."

"They had a horseback window in the bank, so the people who handled the stock
in the yards
could ride up on their horses and cash their checks," he said.

The sight of cowboys cantering up and down the street, shouting greetings,
waiting at the bank,
their horses blowing and stamping in line, was fascinating to the immigrants
second-generation Americans who waited for buses across the street, sausages
in hand.

By the early 1950s, speculators were buying up cheap swampland south of the
city, draining it
and developing it as blue-collar and middle-class suburban neighborhoods. The
families in
Back of the Yards --at least the ones in which someone had been putting away
a nest egg over
the years -- began moving south as fast as the houses became available.

As it happened, the Lebensorgers and the Kaczynskis moved to the same suburb,
Park, a settlement of 10,000 people on sparsely settled land where there were
woods to roam
and where wild ducks walked in the dirt streets. It was barely five miles
south of Back of the
Yards, but Lebensorger said it was another world.

He was 10 years old, the same age as Ted Kaczynski. Each of them had lived
his first decade in
the city, before moving south to Evergreen Park. By then, Ted's younger
brother, David, was 2
years old.

"It was really something, really something, to be way out there and wake up
every morning and
smell that clean air," Lebensorger said.

For people like the Kaczynskis, who moved to Evergreen Park in 1952, it might
as well have
been Montana.


Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
The following is part 3 of a series from the Houston Chronicle. You can
access the hypertext version at the Chronicle Homepage -

Visions Of Grandeur

Dad's sense of self-reliance taken to heart

Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle

LISBON, Iowa -- Theodore and Wanda Kaczynski never strayed too far from the
things they
denounced. Self-taught intellectuals who lived in the middle class, amateur
naturalists who
lived in town, they left the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s for this farm town
in the upper
Midwest and told themselves they were in the Far West.

Perhaps the one thing they should have told their sons was not to take what
they taught them too

Theodore Kaczynski Sr. will never know if there was a connection between his
own household
lectures on self-reliance and the fate of his son, Ted, now suspected of
being the Unabomber. In
1990, rather than face death by cancer, the elder Kaczynski committed

In their two years here, the Kaczynski parents were nonconformists, but they
were neighborly
and engaging nonconformists. When Theodore Kaczynski pushed back from the
dinner table and
took on his neighbor Richard Radl in debate, there was an amiable quality to
their talk, as if
their intellectualism were more a hobby than a serious occupation.

Radl, a local businessman and state legislator, is now dead of natural
causes. He was a liberal
Democrat who eventually became a Nixon supporter, according to his son, Bill
Radl, 47, a
writer on the staff of the University of Iowa College of Medicine. The
younger Radl remembers
that his father felt an instant kinship for the Kaczynskis when they came to
town in 1966 and
rented an upper flat in the house across the street.

"My father was a very devoted atheist," Radl said, "and my mother was mostly
quiet. I think,
based on my memory of sitting around the living room listening to my father
and Mr. Kaczynski
talk after dinner, that they enjoyed baiting each other, and each one liked
the idea that the other
one was willing to argue ideas."

Mixed with their fondness for intellectual banter was a certain sense, mostly
fantasy, that they
were both somehow pioneers. Richard Radl had moved his small plastics plant
to Lisbon from
Chicago to reduce his cost of operation. Theodore Kaczynski came to Lisbon to
run a small
foam rubber factory for a Chicago company. Both were in their early 50s at
the time.

"I think, for both of them, there was this Marlboro-man sense of coming west
and making your
own way," Radl said.

A frequent after-dinner pastime of these two armchair intellectuals involved
a verbal game of
speculation about survival. "One of their favorite fantasies was about
surviving in the
wilderness," Radl said. "There was a kind of science-fiction feel about the
way they would
pose it to each other.

"What if you woke up tomorrow, and everybody else were gone, and only you
remained? Of
course, when they talked about it, all the stuff was still around, the cars
and the gasoline and so
on. They never explained how everybody else on earth got wiped out but their
stuff wasn't hurt.

"They would talk about how they would fix up an electric generator for
themselves, and then
collect gasoline and kerosene. Eventually they would decide they had to go
out and cultivate an
acre or so of ground."

The Kaczynski sons, David, then a high school student, and Ted, who had jus
finished his
doctorate at the University of Michigan, couldn't wait to bring the fantasy
to life. The outdoors
and camping were their great delight together.

Another neighbor, Pete Greiner, a farmer who had moved to town in 1966,
remembers looking
up from his driveway and seeing the two young men headed off for a weekend of
canoeing -- a
winsome sight.

"They had a canoe tied up on top of an old beat-up Volkswagen, probably
headed out
somewhere on the Cedar River," he said. "They were happy. You could tell."

Up to this point, the ideas and enthusiasms of the parents had been a glue
that held the family
together. People here and in the Chicago suburbs where the Kaczynskis lived
remember how
proudly the boys showed off the fossils they had collected on outings with
their parents, how
eager the sons were for their father to let them look through his telescope.
The anti-materialist,
anti-capitalist feelings of the parents were painless enough in a period of
general prosperity
and peace.

But like Bill Radl, the Kaczynski sons had to carry their parents'
individualism forward into a
more troubled era. Radl was arrested as a draft resister during the Vietnam
War and eventually
won status as a conscientious objector.

Ann Arbor, Mich., where Ted Kaczynski spent the years 1962-67 while working
on his
graduate degrees, was already a seething cauldron in his last year there.
Protests and teach-ins
choked the corridors of the main class building, Angell Hall. Tear gas rolled
up from the streets
where student radicals threw Molotov cocktails at the police from behind
barricades. It was a
time and place in history when people took everything very seriously,
including themselves.
There was no room for dilettantes.

In the late '60s, when Ted was coming back to visit his family in Lisbon, the
enjoyed some of their last happy moments together as a family. Rather than
buy a house, as they
had elsewhere, they rented an upstairs flat in what had once been one of a
few grand homes in
Lisbon. Open country was only a block away on three sides of them. Theodore
Sr. was a
five-minute walk from his small cushion factory, housed in a one-story metal
and concrete
building, 40 by 160 feet, next to the tracks in the shadow of the town's
grain elevator.

Today there are affluent new neighborhoods rising on the edges of Lisbon,
built for commuters
from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. But the neighborhood where the Kaczynskis
lived at one end
of Main Street is still a quiet haven. Out beyond the town, long trains
loaded with grain float by
in silence, as they must have when the Kaczynskis were here.

Theodore Sr. was a tinkerer, clever mechanically without being really
mechanically trained,
according to his former neighbor across the street, Pete Greiner. "He
invented a new foam
cutter for his plant out of hot wire, because the kind they had was leaving
the foam sticky,"
Greiner remembered.

One day when Greiner was trying to fix a large piece of harvesting equipment
on his farm,
Kaczynski stopped by to visit but was little help. "He was somewhat
mechanical but not real
mechanical," Greiner said.

He said Kaczynski did not bring up politics with him. "He and I were kind of
on opposite sides
of the fence, so he just didn't talk about it with me. He was a very
congenial man."

Diane Shelton was a teen-ager when she worked for Kaczynski in the foam
factory, one of his
four employees. It was her first job.

"He was a good boss," she remembered. "He was understanding if you were sick.
He didn't
yell. I never heard him raise his voice."

She liked him and his unusual family. "I remember Ted (the son) went out one
day and found all
these roots you could eat and brought them back and showed us. He had one
that tasted like
potatoes and then another one that tasted like something else and so on. They
were all real
proud of that kind of stuff."

Wanda attended classes at the University of Iowa, 20 miles south of Lisbon
where she
completed a bachelor's degree in English in June 1968. Even though her own
sons were grown,
she was fond of the little children in the town. "She had her house all
decorated for
Halloween," Greiner said, "all ready for the trick-or-treaters."

The Kaczynskis may have rented because they knew their sojourn in Iowa was
not going to last
long. In 1968, the foam rubber company closed Theodore Kaczynski's cushion
plant, and he and
his wife moved back to Chicago to deal with their own economic survival and,
eventually, old

David, who had enjoyed his years in high school here, came back to Lisbon
after college to
teach and work on a novel. The novel went unpublished, and eventually he
moved to a solitary
cabin in the desert at Terlingua in Southwest Texas for another, more serious

Ted went from Ann Arbor to the University of California at Berkeley. So shy
he could not
answer the questions of his students, he failed as a teacher and repaired to
his own cabin in the
mountains. His mother told friends her genius son was in Montana working on a
book that
would make his reputation.

Now the ideas of the father could finally be put to their real test. One
cannot help wondering if
the elder Kaczynski had ever really intended for that to happen.


Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
The following is part 4 of a series from the Houston Chronicle. You
access the hypertext version at the Chronicle Homepage -

Without God

Kaczynskis' neighbors say worship of knowledge didn't feed the soul

Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle

LOMBARD, Ill. -- Six years after the death of Theodore Kaczynski,
father of the man accused
of being the Unabomber, his passing is still an awkward, even painful
subject for Roy Froberg,
a man who barely knew him.

Kaczynski, who always maintained a careful distance, broke his rule and
shared a confidence
with Froberg one day in 1990.

"He had just come back from the doctor from having his check-up,"
Froberg said. "He came
over, and he said, `It's terminal.' Just like that. He had lung cancer.
He said they had checked
him, and they had told him he wasn't going to live."

Having opened himself that far to Froberg, a neighbor across the street
for 22 years, Kaczynski
offered nothing more. "He just went back in his house. A few days
later, he was gone," Froberg

Kaczynski, whose major fascinations in life had been knowledge and
survival, waited until his
wife, Wanda, was out of the house and then shot himself to death with a
pistol. He was 77.

Froberg is still pained to have been so close and yet so far from the
man at such a crucial
moment. But he says that, with the Kaczynskis, there was always a line.

"For years," Froberg said, "I watched this man come out of his house to
smoke his pipe. He had
a little area he stayed in when he was smoking, on his own property,
and I never saw him once
step out of that little space while he was smoking."

After her husband's suicide, Wanda Kaczynski continued to be active in
her neighborhood and
community. Tough enough to volunteer at a nearby grade school but sweet
enough that the kids
called her "Grandma K," she, too, maintained a line.

Froberg, a retired patternmaker, said, "The picture that comes back to
me of Wanda is, we
were having my 60th birthday party in the back yard, everybody in the
neighborhood, people
drinking beer, having a good time. Here comes Wanda to join us, and she
has brought her own
lunch in a little brown bag."

A few days before Christmas in 1991, Wanda came to Marian Froberg, a
retired school
librarian, to ask if she could recommend a church in the area where a
person might attend
Christmas Eve services.

"But then she made a point of telling me it was for her new
daughter-in-law," she said. "David
and his wife were going to visit, and Wanda said the daughter-in-law
might want to go to
church, like it was important to know it wasn't her or her son."

Marian Froberg remembers Wanda as a deeply moral and compassionate
person, who helped
spur on the Frobergs' daughter to continue her education and worked
with Marian to help infirm
and lonely widows in the neighborhood. The two women struggled over the
moral issues
involved in helping their elderly friends stay in their homes rather
than go to nursing homes.

"We found ourselves dealing with the issue of when you need to keep
helping and when you are
just making a person dependent on you in a way that may be dangerous to
that person," Froberg

But in all this Wanda Kaczynski made it plain to the Frobergs, who are
Lutherans, that she did
not share their faith in God. "She believed that the Bible and the
Christian story were a myth,"
Marian Froberg said, "along with other important myths that people
might study."

In a long, awkward conversation recently, while the sun went down
outside their modest frame
house and their living room grew dark, the Frobergs struggled with
their feelings about the

"They got their values from worshipping knowledge," Marian Froberg
said. "Even in their old
age, a vacation for them was traveling to youth hostels on college
campuses around the country
where there was some course they could take."

The Frobergs, who are religious and spend time studying their own
faith, wonder if knowledge
and a strong social conscience were enough to give the Kaczynski sons a
framework for their

"If you're just going to go on the minds of other men, without God,
then that's the end of it,"
Marian Froberg said.

They wonder if the themes of survivalism and self-sufficiency, combined
with a rigorous
intellectual agnosticism, may have been more than what the troubled
older brother, Ted, could
handle. Or less than what he needed.

"Could you say he had a God complex?" she asked. "He was in control of

"It's kind of a disease," Roy Froberg added, "and it's gone out of
control. He's smart, so he's got
the answer."

The Frobergs' questions might be explained away as the obvious response
of very religious
people, but similar questions come to the lips of many people who knew
the family, in different
places and under very different circumstances.

Tom Lebensorger, who knew both brothers when they were still boys in
Evergreen Park, Ill.,
said, "There was not much evidence of a Judeo-Christian background in
their home, and I think
that left the boys kind of on their own."

Sandy Fiedler, who knew David, the younger brother, during his years of
sojourn in the desert
near Texas' Big Bend National Park, paused during a day's work recently
and speculated about
both brothers: "If you have no God, then there is no higher order, and
you're taking it all into
your own hands. If you see a problem, and you know you're smart, the
way they were, then you
must be the one who's supposed to solve it."

But some people, including the one clergyman who knew them well, take
strong exception to
the notion that the Kaczynski family suffered from a kind of religious

The Rev. Mel La Follette, an Episcopal missionary to the poor Mexican
Indian people of the
Texas-Mexico border region, knew David and met his parents on their
visits to Texas. La
Follette, a colorful figure who looks like he stepped out of a Willa
Cather novel, lives in a
mobile home in a dusty sun-baked border village, where he listens to
classical music and
somehow manages to raise lush roses.

"As for the theory that the family's problems are somehow the result of
their having an agnostic
view," La Follette said, "I would use the term, `bullshit.'

"They were not without belief. They had tossed over the institutional
church, but that didn't
mean they had tossed over a moral framework. I would think David is the
shining example of
that -- somebody who is willing to turn over his own brother to the
authorities. You don't do
something like that without some kind of moral grounding."

La Follette has his own simple explanation for the difference in the
ways the two Kaczynski
brothers turned out. "It's how it is," he said. "You raise two
different kids in the same
environment, and they will turn out completely different."

La Follette's own son, Joe La Follette, now 30 years old and a teacher,
had his own years of
rebellion and struggle when he was younger, during which he spent many
long days and nights
hiking the desert with David Kaczynski, discussing life and literature,
debating the big issues. If
there was a central logic or theme in David's life, he said, it may
have been the idea that in
poverty and solitude there is purity.

"Look at what he read," Joe La Follette said. "He read all these books
by people who didn't
make a living. I think he said to himself, `If I'm going to write, I'm
going to be poor.' It was part
of being pure. He was out there studying, boiling the intellectual
juices. Sometimes when you're
a really smart person, you need a place where you can go deep."

Wanda Kaczynski proudly and defensively insisted to the Frobergs that
her sons would achieve
recognition when their books were published. It was probably a
hopelessly naive view of the
way things work --that her sons, the geniuses, would labor like monks
in their cells until one
day the world, discovering their brilliance, would beat a path to their

But she was their mother. The purity and isolation she and her husband
preached seem to have
done no great harm to David -- by all accounts an interesting,
productive person.

It is the way these same notions may have worked in the mind of the
other brother that is
chilling. For whatever reason, he seems from the beginning not to have
owned the basic human
skills involved in building a happy life. For him, the worship of pure
knowledge and a cool
tinkering intellectualism were not enough. Alone in his cell with only
these things for comfort
and guidance, he may have become a monster.

Ironically, it is in staying out there so long, in failing to change or
grow, even in becoming wild
and bizarre, that Ted Kaczynski achieves a certain resonance for
members of his generation.

Bill Radl, who knew the Kaczynskis when they lived in Lisbon, Iowa,
went on to his own
problems with the times -- an arrest for draft evasion, an eventual
conscientious objector status.
He lives in a sunny house full of art and hardwood floors in Iowa City,
where he is now the
mellow, graying late-parent father of a little girl who bounces through
the kitchen with a
four-word report on her soccer practice.

"I can't help thinking about this guy," Radl said of Ted Kaczynski,
"out there all that time. I think
he's a guy who came of age in the middle of a bunch of crap and got
himself in a corner.

"If he did what they say he did, then that's absolutely horrible. But I
think a lot of people my age
are also going to think of him as sort of a last holdout. The true

In his interview with The New York Times, David confirmed earlier
reports that Ted once
wrote a long letter to his mother, attacking her bitterly for his own
unhappiness. David said his
mother had written to Ted first, out of concern, asking him to share
with her the things that made
him unhappy.

What came back, David told the Times, was a long twisted epistle,
reasonable in tone at first
but increasingly wild and bitter as it progressed, in which Ted
cataloged the hurts and
disappointments of his life, going back to being picked last for a team
in high school. He said
his mother had been interested only in his brilliance. He told her he
had never had a single

It is clear in David's account that his brother saw his own unhappiness
as the fault of others
who should have known or cared enough to steer him on a better path. If
Ted Kaczynski is the
Unabomber, his revenge for being unhappy was the injuring and maiming
of 23 human beings
and the taking of three lives.

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