What makes for great neighborhoods

Posted 8/3/23

Warwick has some great neighborhood watchdogs. Well, watchdog isn’t entirely correct, since the people I’ve meet over the years don’t just bark when something raises their hackles, …

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What makes for great neighborhoods


Warwick has some great neighborhood watchdogs. Well, watchdog isn’t entirely correct, since the people I’ve meet over the years don’t just bark when something raises their hackles, yap at meetings or act sweet when everything is just going fine.

Warwick is fortunate. We have lots of them. Going way back to the 70s, Dorothy Mayor comes to mind. Dorothy lived in Apponaug. She painted scenes of the village in a primitive style that are not usually proportionally correct, but, if you know the place, it’s identifiable. It was her concern for the village, however, that became indelible. At one time there was a small Sunoco service station alongside St. Barnabas Church. I don’t remember it ever being operational, but no mistake it was a blot on the neighborhood. Dorothy championed its removal and the classifying of the land as open space. That happened and when it became a park it was, deservedly, named for her.

Council members are elected to keep watch over their neighborhoods. They’re expected to do that. Again, Warwick has been fortunate. We’ve had good ones.

It’s the people like Dorothy Mayor who take pride in their neighborhoods and assume that “watchdog” role whether a member of a neighborhood organization or not. What got me thinking was an email from David Bouchard, the Massasoit Terrace resident instrumental in the “Save our Pond” campaign to prevent construction of a self storage facility on Post Road backing up on the pond. While the neighborhood hasn’t declared an official victory, for, who knows, such a proposal may come up again, neither the owner of the Pond Plaza property nor prospective developers are pushing a project.

When I spotted the Bouchard email, I imagined he might be taking on another crusade to protect the neighborhood.

Instead, he wanted to point out a positive neighborhood development: street art and the work of Paula Guest, who lives at 124 Massasoit. He sent along pictures and, indeed, Paula’s artistic abilities are impressive. But there is more to it than that. Many in Warwick take pride in their homes and properties which make for nicely painted houses, manicured yards and lawns and colorful gardens that have been carefully tended.

The Guest household has done that. But what inspired Paula to reach beyond her property and awaken her latent artistic talents?

Dave helped make a connection and on Friday I stopped over to meet this high energy K-5 health teacher who, during the school year, commutes to New Bedford. She likes the ride because it gives her time to think. Her story resonated.  She isn’t out to have reporters knocking on her door or a TV crew filming the tableau in front of her house. Her work is as much a contribution to the neighborhood as it is a personal fulfillment.

She’s forthright about what took her here. Paula’s grandfather and father are accomplished artists. She felt the pull of fine art but didn’t want to compete with family.  Paula attended Bryant that was then primarily a business college. It really didn’t fit with her creative ability or her interest in sports and physical fitness. She changed gears and went to Springfield College where she earned her masters in coaching. From there she was on the way to becoming a PE teacher and when the opportunity came in the wake of the pandemic to teaching health.

In a perverse way teaching brought her to her roots in art. The job was stressful and about a year ago she was prescribed anti-anxiety medicine. She discovered it released her from the fear of not living up to the quality of her father’s work. She started drawing Marvel characters on the walls of her basement gym. That evolved to drawing the characters outdoors. Neighbors congratulated her on her work and Rob, who lives across the street, along with her husband Peter built a school bus stop where kids meet up with the characters from Alice in Wonderland.  When they return to school it will be a Harry Potter themed bus stop. Paula was working on it Monday.

That’s what makes for a neighborhood, residents coming together for the benefit of everybody.

Paula did more than that when she heard a passerby questioning Rob whether he was all right. At first she couldn’t see Rob. He was laying face up in the grass behind a lawn motor. Paula went into action. She dialed 911. Put the pone on speaker and checked out Rob. She slapped him. He didn’t react. There was no pulse.

“He was dead,” she said. Paula wasn’t going to let that stop her. She went into CPR mode, compressing his chest so hard she could hear his ribs crack. Slowly, Rob started heavy raspy breathing. By the time rescue arrived he was showing additional signs of life. Today he’s fine.

I hadn’t expected such a tale from the street artist of Massasoit Terrace. But then that’s the great thing about neighborhoods, they are filled with people sharing their talents whether it’s a box of fresh baked cookies, a bouquet of flowers, shoveling snow, helping clear a fallen branch and even saving a life.

Our watchdogs know that and spread the good word.

This Side Up, neighborhoods, art


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