By Ron O’Clair
I was picking up the latest copy of InCity Times and happened to be around when ICT Chief Rosalie was delivering the new edition. We exchanged greetings and hugs, and during our brief conversation a topic came up: our mutual friend Barbara Haller, former long time District 4 Worcester City Councilor.
That got me thinking about all the things that Barbara started in motion that are now paying dividends in my neighborhood after many years of abject neglect and indifference to the plight of the decent, hardworking residents of the area who collectively suffered for many years while our neighborhood was besieged by hordes of criminal minded types that constantly despoiled the peace and serenity of the area.
One of those long suffering residents: Mr. Gerard (Jerry) Michaud, of whom I featured in an article printed in InCity Times. He was a long time resident here in the 700 Block of Main Street and a longtime resident of the building I manage here at 707 Main Street. He just passed away this past week, the fourth week of August, 2012.
Jerry, as everyone called him, had the best view out of this building onto what was a constant parade of lawlessness, seven days a week, and all throughout the night as well. He lived directly above the corner of Main & Charlton Street in the largest room in the building known as: “The Charlton”. He had three windows that faced Main Street, and two that faced Charlton Street. He saw, and heard it all, all day, and all night. It was chaos, plain and simple. The poor guy suffered from emphysema and could hardly breathe towards the end, but he stayed the course living here right up until he died this past week.
He died in the hospital, where he had been spending much of his time recently. Jerry was the type of guy who did for other people, and was very active in the A.A. Program of recovery, as am I. We both had over 30 years of continuous sobriety from alcohol, and were very active in helping bring the message of recovery to those still suffering from alcoholism, or drug abuse.
Living here there were many opportunities to reach out a hand to help an active alcoholic achieve sobriety. Before he took ill, Jerry was the caretaker at the Notre Dame Des Canadien’s Church at Salem Square, where you would often see him at the noontime A.A. meeting that was held there for many years. He was a staunch believer in the program of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse that A.A. has come to serve as a dual purpose recovery program.
Old-timers’ in the halls of A.A., which would apply to Jerry and myself, would tell you that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is about recovery from alcohol, and only alcohol. That is the primary purpose of A.A., to bring the program of recovery to those that still suffer from alcoholism. In reality, it has morphed over the years into a combination of A.A., & N.A., and no one can tell this old timer any different. Anonymity is essential also, and normally one would not profess in press, radio, or television their full name, I am breaking one of the Traditions of A.A., by putting my name out there as a member of A.A. while still alive. It has been long a tradition to acknowledge membership by name after a person dies, but not before. There have been exceptions, mostly those that are glory hunting and want to take credit for the good works of the fellowship as a whole, as if they were directly responsible for the recovery of this or that member.
In the halls of A.A., Gerard was known as: Jerry M., and I as; Ron O.
Jerry helped a lot of people by leading them into the recovery phase of addiction, and many owe him a debt of gratitude. May Jerry rest in peace, he was a good person, and gave unselfishly to help those less fortunate than himself. I will miss Gerard Michaud, there are not that many like him left in this world of ours today where most people are thinking only of themselves.
This brings me back to Barbara Haller.
Far from thinking only of herself, Barbara represented this district, and all of its inhabitants with a fierce determination to not allow the rights of the people to live in a safe community go unheard.
She was the voice of the people of the 4th District, and worked tirelessly to represent their interests in the Council Chambers. It was primarily due to her efforts that the police patrols that were so instrumental in reclaiming this neighborhood came into reality. Since the crackdown that resulted, the neighborhood has improved dramatically. The hordes of the unwashed, foul mouthed, ignorant, and rude multitudes have found new places to sell their illegal drugs, and to prey on the hardworking residents of the city elsewhere.
It was not all Barbara, all the time, many people worked to change the neighborhood alongside the police, myself included, but Barbara was the magnet that pulled all the pieces together towards one goal, the improvement of an intolerable situation. People would have had to have lived through it to understand just how bad it was. I wrote many articles on the subject to highlight the problems and work towards bringing about a solution.
I never sought, nor received any praise for my efforts to reclaim this neighborhood, and did not bring about the transformation by myself either, but we all put our oars in the water to steer the boat in the right direction. The unifying force behind all the transformation was indeed all Barbara. Without her being in the District 4 seat, none of the action would have happened.
Barbara Haller, if you are reading this: Please run for an at-large seat on the City Council the next time around, you have my vote, as you always did, and I bet there are many other people that did not vote the last time around that regret they did not return you to the post that you so effectively used to transform this nightmare into a semblance of a normal neighborhood.
It was through our collective efforts that the transformation happened, and the police have seemed to have a new attitude as regards the long suffering resident’s rights to a peaceful and quiet neighborhood as to the rights of the lawless to continue to disturb the peace. It never would have happened without you at the helm of the ship that all our oars helped navigate through the troubled waters of an uncaring City Council.
No one did more than you Barbara, yet many were involved in their own little ways. Without all the pieces of the puzzle that you helped put together, none of what has transpired would have taken place.
Poor Jerry spent his last days here in relative peace and quiet, and he never would have had that blessing without your efforts Barbara.
Barbara Haller, District 4 needs you, the City of Worcester needs you, please if you decide to leave the peace and tranquility of Vermont, and come back to Worcester, please run again for the council. The peace and tranquility is not of the sort you are getting used to, but after all the troubles, it is a godsend and you should come to see what you helped achieve.
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