by Bruce A. Smith
In her new book, Disguised Blessings, author Jeanne Callahan Trantel tells the story of her life married to a man who led a double life.
Her husband, Stephen Trantel, was a Wall Street commodities trader who lost his job in the stock market downturn following 9-11 and never told Jeanne – instead developing a secret life as a bank robber.
But perhaps the bigger surprise is that the experience awakened a deeper part of Jeanne, who had to get a job and raise two kids – standing on her own two feet for the first time in her life. Along with a new toughness came a new perspective on her life and Jeanne now describes the experience as transformative. The title of her book reflects her appreciation of her hard-won capacities, a blessing that was initially disguised in pain and drama.
“I’m one powerful girl, right now,” she told the Mountain News.
Although Jeanne and her family live in suburban New York – the bank robberies occurred on Long Island– she has strong ties to Washington. Her book has received national attention and she has appeared on KOMO-TV’s Northwest Afternoon.
More importantly though, Jeanne has been a student at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm, WA, and she credits her studies at RSE as being vital to her ability to survive her ordeal.
“I had an inward journey going on, too,” she said, “and I was in therapy.”
Jeanne says she learned from all of these experiences, especially treasuring how she learned to focus from Ramtha, and create her own life.
Jeanne’s transformation has been remarkable. Married in 1994 at 29, her husband had been able to generate sufficient income for her to be a stay-at-home mom and have all the finery of an up-scale New York life.
Jeanne played her part as a beautiful wife and a deferring partner, and she never paid any of the bills – letting her husband handle all the family finances. As a result, she never had a clue that her husband was broke and out of work.
“This truly woke me up,” she said. “I had been a party girl in college – very social – and I was ‘unconscious’ for a long time.”
However, even before the bank robberies began, Jeanne had sensed a need for change. During the early years of her marriage she had begun meditating, started reading books on consciousness, and had attended several workshops on spiritual matters.
She had also sensed a change in her husband in the months leading up to his decision to rob banks in early 2003 – his drinking increased along with his anger, plus changes in hygiene – and she and Stephen entered therapy. But even there he lied to Jeanne and told her everything was okay at work.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he was planning to rob a bank,” she said.
Worse, Stephen froze her out of his life and clung to his image as a hugely successful man.
“I was shocked that he held me in such low regard – that he didn’t tell me we were in trouble – that he didn’t trust me or count on me,” she said.
Nevertheless, Stephen, now out of work – and even banned from the trading floor due to his outstanding debts – began researching how to become a thief at his local public libraries. He soon launched his new career, hitting eleven banks in Nassau and Suffolk Counties during the summer of 2003 and netting about $80,000.
However, Nassau County Police found his fingerprint on a note he passed to a teller that matched a print recorded during his DUI conviction in 1984. As a result, the cops nabbed him after a period of surveillance on the day after Thanksgiving in 2003.
“I was devastated,” said Jeanne. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Jeanne said that Stephen “swore up and down” that he was innocent.
“I believed him,” Jeanne said. “I loved him.”
Prosecutors set Stephen’s bail at $800,000, which was paid by his father, who put up a lien on his house. Friends pitched-in, too, helping with family bills, getting utilities restored and the mortgage current.
Making bail, Stephen returned home and wanted to resume the marriage, but Jeanne says that she wasn’t ready – too much was changing, and had changed. In addition, media was assaulting her home and life.
“It was crazy – Oprah, Barbara Walters, the movie people – they were all over the place.”
The two boys were aged 2 and 5 when their father was arrested, and Jeanne had to make major changes very quickly. She returned to college, getting a certificate in massage therapy and a degree in real estate, eventually launching two careers to pay the bills.
“I had to juggle everything,” she said.
In the spring of 2004, Stephen made a plea deal and began serving a nine year sentence. He was released in January 2012.
However, part of Jeanne’s transformation was to divorce Stephen while he was in prison. Her personal growth, along with his lies and deceptions, were too imposing for the marriage to overcome.
“When Stephen was arrested, something very deep was triggered. I’d wake up at night, and I was in deep fear,” Jeanne said.
Her inner turmoil intensified.
“One day I started crying…I got on my knees and pleaded with God to help me. It was a crushing feeling. I couldn’t live like this for one more day. I had reached a breaking point in my soul,” she said.
Afterwards, Jeanne noticed that positive changes were entering her life. Her spiritual life blossomed and she created a very strong relationship with a local church and developed a bond with “Mary the Mother of God.”
In addition, Jeanne received lots of support from family and friends, especially her parents.
“The kids were great, too,” she said. “And my friends – they would come over and cook dinner for us, and they’d help with money – that kind of thing.”
But her relationship with Stephen continued to deteriorate, especially when he was incarcerated.
“Stephen threatened to kill himself if I left him,” she said. “He was so broken. So, I left very carefully, promising to stay friends.”
To that goal, Jeanne brought her two sons to visit their father in prison until 2009, after which she arranged for them to be taken by their aunt.
“The boys got to see their father at least once every eight weeks,” she said.
Now, Stephen has his own home and is re-building his relationship with his sons, now 11 and 15.
“The boys are getting to know him,” she said, adding that Stephen is particularly active in teaching his sons sports.
As for Jeanne, her journey continues as well. She said that she recently attended a workshop at the Ramtha School that indicates a new destiny forming in her life.
“I was totally letting go. I was crying in the middle of The Field (where a discipline of focus takes place), and I found my card that said “Healing People – Using Me as an Instrument.’”
Jeanne says that she wants to expand on her public life as a published author.
“I want to help people take the pain out of their lives,” she said. “I am so grateful that I can let go of my anxieties – I know I am creating a beautiful day today.”
Jeanne says that by showing people how she got through her drama she can help people who have lost hope.
“It shows how to be in your own power,” she says, “especially women – how to create your own life. It’s important to have job skills.”
Already her message is getting out to millions of women – and men. Besides the Dr Phil Show and NW Afternoon, Jeanne has appeared on the Today Show, 48 Hours, American Greed, the Early Show, and soon she hopes to be on the new Opra Winfrey Show.
“I’m not a guru,” she says, “but I’ve learned how to be very firm and overcome fear.”
Disguised Blessings – A wife’s story of her Wall Street husband turned bank robber is available at http://www.amazon.com/Disguised-Blessings-Street-husband-turned/dp/1449028373 .
Locally, Ms Trantel’s book can be purchased at JZ Knight’s bookstore in Yelm.
In addition, RSE has a link and overview to Disguised Blessings, and to Jeanne’s appearance on the Dr. Phil Show:
© 2012 Mountain News-WA