East Avenue Woman, 72, Addresses Neighbor’s Unexpected Blight Complaint


An East Avenue woman, 72, said repairmen are close to mending a broken fence that prompted a neighbor she’s never met to file a blight complaint which also finds fault with “all sorts of stuff” that became visible in the yard after January’s wind storms brought it down.

Jackie Olowo (née Walker) on her East Avenue porch saw January's windstorms take down a section of fencing. A Summer Street woman on April 26 filed a blight complaint with the town. Credit: Michael Dinan

Jackie Owolo (née Walker) on her East Avenue porch saw January’s windstorms take down a section of fencing. A Summer Street woman on April 26 filed a blight complaint with the town. Credit: Michael Dinan

Jacqueline Owolo (née Walker) of 125 East Ave.— a New Canaan High School graduate known to scores of locals through her work as a nurse at Waveny Care Center and as a member of the Community Baptist Church—said a single section of the fence came down “and it pulled down another part.”

The replacement fencing has been delivered and the son of a family friend is stepping in to install it, said Owolo, a mother of two and grandmother of three whose own son lives in California.

A neighbor across Summer Street on April 26 filed a blight complaint saying “3 panels of fence has been torn down since wind storm in January 2016” and “Coat hangers and plastic tape used to repair and failed.”

The section of fencing that came down, as seen from the complainant's Summer Street home. Credit: Michael Dinan

The section of fencing that came down, as seen from the complainant’s Summer Street home. Credit: Michael Dinan

“Yard and home is not maintained,” said the complaint, obtained by NewCanaanite.com following a formal request. “Yard is littered with stuff. All sorts of stuff! Too much list. House has a broken window with cardboard in place.”

Owolo said she has never been contacted directly by the complainant.

It isn’t clear why—reached by NewCanaanite.com, the complainant declined to comment. New Canaan’s blight ordinance is outlined in Section 7-A of the Town Code.

“We have been working on all their other complaints like getting the yard cleaned up,” Owolo said of the neighbor. “They even demanded that I have my porch cleaned up and everything. She must have been using binoculars.”

Jackie Walker's 1961 'Perannos'/NCHS yearbook senior photo. Her senior quote is "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."

Jackie Walker’s 1961 ‘Perannos’/NCHS yearbook senior photo. Her senior quote is “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

Owolo’s home dates to 1888, tax records show, and it’s been in her prominent and widely respected family since her dad—the late Marshall Walker, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during World War II—purchased it for $13,000 in 1954.

A baby-boomer born in October 1943, the eldest of four and the only girl, as well as the last surviving sibling, Owolo recalls that her father moved the family into the house in the late-1940s from their first home on Locust Avenue. Owolo attended Center School and graduated NCHS in 1961—many of her classmates that year are from equally well-known New Canaan families, such as Apy, Andronaco, Cantrell, Curcio, Ferris, Havard, Natale, Rucci, Ruffin, Sirico, Stewart and Tiani.

She earned a nursing degree from the University of Connecticut and set about working as a nurse for the town, then married and eventually moved back into her parents’ house, raising her two kids here.

Her father was a civic volunteer who launched a successful housekeeping company—an innovation for the 1950s, Owolo recalls, as many residents had live-in maids.

“It took off hugely,” she said.

“He just did very well and a lot of the men that worked for him, if they did a very good job he gave them their customers and started them off on their own,” Owolo recalled.

She added: “And he was a person that had a very good temper, he didn’t have a lot of anger, he took his time and had patience and I had people come up to me even when I was in high school to tell me how wonderful his work was.”

Owolo recalled that her father used to pay his workers in cash, and as a teen it was her job on Fridays to stop by the bank on Main Street on her way home from school to pick up the bags of money and walk them down East Avenue. There, the workers themselves would stop by the family’s house to get paid.

She herself retired from Waveny Care Center two years ago following a sudden illness, though she goes back to the Farm Road facility on the fourth Wednesday of the month for church “and everybody over there knows me on both sides—even when I go over there on Sundays to see them, staff members, clients, people behind the desk.”

“I was over there on this past Sunday to take communion and on my way out—because they’ve done a lot and renovating over there—I stopped at the desk to ask the nurse a question,” she recalled with a smile. “And she was writing and so she answered my question and then went to leave to go upstairs and all of the sudden she jumped out of her chair, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s Jackie!’ ”

Owolo said she often runs into people that she’s known at different stages of her life in town.

For example, she recalled, when as a teen she’d go to the bank on Fridays to pick up the cash payroll for her father, a manager there always became very concerned about the practice—a girl picking up the money on her own, to walk home.

After starting out as a visiting nurse for the town, Owolo said she came across that same manager and “both of us just fell over.”

“And then he finally told me. He said, ‘I had somebody that was following behind you, just to make sure that you were OK.’ ”

19 thoughts on “East Avenue Woman, 72, Addresses Neighbor’s Unexpected Blight Complaint

  1. What a wonderful story. And shame on the neighbor for such trivial complaint. Why not go over and offer this lovely women some help??

  2. Are blight complaints reported by Newcanaanite usually accompanied with a full expose of the resident, including an extended family historical perspective?

  3. Shame on that neighbor! This is a wonderful family they’re complaining about. Perhaps offering some help would’ve been the first move?

  4. To the reader who submitted a comment under the username ‘Mckenzie Rumph’: The email you used bounced back to me as undeliverable. For serious matters such as this, particularly for pointed remarks such as yours, I require ID verification and at least a partial, verifiable name on the site, such as first initial and last name or vice versa. Thanks.

  5. Kudos to M. Dinan for masterfully managing the internet trolls and to the readers who positively supported this story of a fine New Canaanite.

  6. It seems like the town is going down a very slippery slope in regard to the urban blight law. Some of the complaints seem fairly petty and arbitrary. Micheal, have you by any chance sought comment from The Building Dept on their interpretation of the law and how they determine when to use it?

    • Rich, my understanding is that the Building Department must follow up on any such complaint. I believe a change in how New Canaan handles blight would have to emanate from the ordinance itself, a process that probably would have to start with the very busy Town Council Bylaws & Ordinances subcommittee. What I know for sure is that blight complaints often rank among the least favorite responsibilities of town officials.

      • Thx Michael. How do you become aware of a blight complaint? Is there something official issued much like the police reports ? Once a complaint becomes a public matter it would seem to put more pressure on the home owner to

        • Those who lodge a formal complaint with the town must fill out a form. We find out different ways—sometimes it goes to a publicly noticed hearing, or other times I hear directly from neighbors or from the person who is accused of neglecting their property, or I may come across a complaint just doing regular journalism due diligence in reviewing public records.

      • Michael, while i know you have a thing about printing the names of “perps” in your work, but did you think that:
        1) while maybe it is a nice human interest story (with some racial overtones?), it could be embarrassing to Ms. Owolo to have information about HER yard spread around town;
        2) since you did mention her name, i think it is important to mention the name of the complainer as well, which must be readily available thru NCPD.

        • To answer your questions: 1. I see it as our job to report the news, and part of that has always been noting blight complaints when they are lodged formally with the Building Department. 2. I did consider seriously whether to publish the complainant’s name, and decided ultimately that it was beneath Mrs. Owolo’s considerable dignity to risk creating a new problem for someone where none exists.

  7. I live a few houses away and I JUST NOTICED the fence last weekend. I don’t really think it’s been that way since January. I think I am going to go by to see if I can do anything. I can’t fix a fence, but perhaps I can do something else to help.

  8. As i recall, nice people in town got together and raised some funds for the South Avenue crossing guard who needed to get his car fixed and couldn’t afford it. I think NewCanaanite should lead the charge, since you alerted us about the issue, to get a core of volunteers to help clean up Ms. Owolo’s yard … either sweat equity or raise some $$ to have a pro clean it up and fix her fence.

    • I’m hearing today that the fence already has been fixed. I should note, too, that Mrs. Owolo is not seeking help at this time. I did leave my card and said if she ever wanted a hand, we would inform the community.

  9. The outpouring of offers of help is the New Canaan I know and love.
    Thanks Mike, for offering another side to the petty “blight” game so many hide behind.
    There are so many, even in New Canaan, who just may need a little helping hand of compassion for another.
    We can all do better.

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