She was the other woman in James “Whitey” Bulger’s life, the one who spent nearly 30 years with the gangster but refused to leave her family to stay with him on the run.
Teresa Stanley died of lung cancer Thursday morning at her home in South Boston, surrounded by her family. She was 71.
“She was a beautiful person, both inside and out, who carried herself with tremendous grace and dignity, at times under some difficult and challenging circumstances,” her son-in-law, Ron Adams, said Friday during a brief telephone interview. “She died peacefully surrounded by her family and friends. She will be missed by all.”
Stanley, a South Boston native, was 26 and divorced with four children, ages 3 months to 7 years old, when she began dating Bulger in the fall of 1966. She was a beautiful woman, with movie-star looks, sparkling blue eyes, and an easygoing nature. He had been released from prison the previous year after serving a nine-year stint for several bank robberies.
They never married, but Stanley said Bulger supported her and her children and raised them as his own. He kept a separate apartment, but had dinner with Stanley and her children most nights at her home on Silver Street in South Boston. He spent all holidays with them.
Stanley testified in court that she was unaware of Bulger’s alleged criminal activities.
“If I ever asked him a question, he would tell me to mind my own business,” Stanley testified. “He would say it’s none of my concern, so I never asked any questions.”
Allegations that Bulger killed 19 people, including two young women, shocked and sickened Stanley.
Charles “Chip” Fleming, a retired Boston police detective who was assigned to the FBI-led task force that hunted Bulger for years, said Stanley once told him: “The Jimmy Bulger you guys know is not the one I knew.”
Stanley said Bulger was good to her children and recalled how they would walk around Castle Island in the winter. She said he was always concerned about whether she was warm enough.
“She got caught up with a bad guy,” Fleming said. “Maybe she put blinders on, but she was a good woman. She’s at peace now.”
Bulger, 82, a longtime FBI informant, is scheduled to stand trial in March in a sweeping federal racketeering case that includes charges that he participated in 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s. He had been a fugitive for 16 years, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, when he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., on June 22, 2011, along with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. Greig was sentenced in June to eight years for conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud.
Stanley said during a series of interviews with the Globe that she was stunned in the fall of 1994 when Greig, whom she had never met, revealed to her that she had been having an on-and-off again affair with Bulger since the mid-’70s.
“She wanted to break it off with him, and she had to do something that would just end it for them,” Stanley said. A furious Bulger showed up as the two women were discussing his infidelity at Greig’s Quincy home, Stanley recalled. Bulger insisted the affair with Greig was over and took Stanley to Europe, stopping in Dublin, Rome, and London.
Shortly after they returned to Boston, Bulger was tipped by a former FBI agent on Dec. 23, 1994, that he was about to be indicted on federal racketeering charges. Bulger took off again with Stanley. By February 1995, she had had enough of life on the run. She missed her family and asked to go home.
Bulger returned to Massachusetts, dropping Stanley off at a Chili’s Restaurant in Hingham. Then he picked up Greig in Dorchester and disappeared again.
In retrospect, Stanley said Greig had done her a favor, because if she hadn’t learned about the affair she might have felt obligated to stay with Bulger.
“After 30 years, I wouldn’t have been able to say: ‘That’s it. You’re on your own. See you later,’ ” Stanley said.
A year later, Stanley began cooperating with the FBI after agents told her Bulger might try to kill her because she knew too much. She revealed Bulger’s alias, Thomas Baxter; his early hideout in New York; and the location of safe deposit boxes where he had stashed money.
But Stanley almost immediately regretted what she had done and told Bulger’s longtime associate, Kevin Weeks. He warned Bulger, who quickly scrambled to get new identification and eluded capture.
On Friday, Weeks had only kind words for Stanley.
“She was a beautiful lady and a lovely person,” he said. “She had a kind heart.”
Stanley testified for the government at the trials of Bulger’s former FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr., who was convicted of federal racketeering and murder. But she was always uncomfortable in the limelight, rarely gave interviews, and expressed sadness for the families of Bulger’s alleged victims.
Stanley struggled financially as she rebuilt her life without Bulger. After living like a stay-at-home wife with him for years, she was without any savings or pension. At age 54, she went to work as a banquet waitress, carting heavy trays during events at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
“She was a very hard worker,” Adams said. “To see a woman pick herself up at that age, get up at 4:30 a.m. to go to work, come home for lunch, and go back to work. . . . She did it with a smile and never had a bad word to say about anybody ever.”
She came to relish her newfound independence. In past interviews, Stanley talked about rekindling friendships she had dropped because Bulger did not like it when she went out at night with her female friends. She was devoted to her elderly mother and was devastated last year by the death of her son, William. Her three daughters, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren were a source of great pride to Stanley, who often talked about how much she loved them.
When Bulger was captured last year, Stanley said she did not recognize him from the mug shots taken after his arrest. “I never would have known him. It didn’t really look like him.”
She said she had moved on with her life, and she dreaded the unabated publicity that followed his arrest. “I think other people deal with it better than me,” Stanley said. “It brings up all the bad stuff.”Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.