HAVE YOU HEARD enough about daughters taken from their mother two decades ago? How about what happens after a father is lifted from a little boy's life?

The boys are Ryan and Kevin Shea. Today, one is 19, while the older of the two, Kevin, will be 21 next month.Their mother is Kathy Shea. Her husband was Donnie Shea.

On the night of Dec. 16, 1978, he was killed on duty with the Massachusetts State Police. He was 28 years old.

How he died: Trooper Shea was heading outbound on Route 9 in Newton, responding to an accident, when his cruiser went off the road, killing him instantly. The investigation seemed to indicate he had perhaps swerved to avoid hitting some obstacle in the road.

But a week later, police located two 14-year-old girls who corrected the initial account. They were the reason his car crashed.

They were out past their curfew. It was after midnight, and they were hurrying to get home, so they decided to cross Route 9 rather than walk to the nearest overpass. The officer swerved to avoid them.

Time passes, but some wounds never heal: Last year, Kevin Shea decided he wanted to become a state trooper, too. He passed the Civil Service test, as well as the State Police exam.

Thinking he'd get preference because his dad died in the line of duty, Kathy Shea was thrilled that her son would follow the footsteps of a father familiar only in a framed photograph. Sadly, she was wrong.

The law granting preference to children of police officers applies only to sons and daughters of cops killed as the result of an assault. After applying for preference and providing proof of the fact that Trooper Shea died in the line of duty, Kevin got a form letter from the legal counsel's office denying his request.

Another empty victory for the type of bureaucratic illogic that cripples so much of government and causes angry citizens to think like terrorists. The decision eq-uates the death of Donnie Shea, who died responding to a police call that cost him his own life because he acted to save the lives of a couple of children, to a routine traf-fic accident on the way to a grocery store.

So Kathy Shea - and a few more people - have been working to amend the wording of flawed legislation so her son and others can obtain a cost-free benefit owed by an often-forgetful society.

"This is so wrong," Kathy Shea said yesterday. "My son isn't asking for any favors. He's asking for what's right."

The two boys never knew their father. And the father never got to know his boys, either, but the entire Shea family sure does know one thing: Donnie Shea, 28 at the time, certainly did die in the line of duty, and he is now being assaulted by the same state he served with honor.