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Hadley bars two women from knitting program

HADLEY — Town Administrator David G. Nixon has informed two women living at the Golden Court housing complex that they are barred from attending a town-sponsored knitting and crochet program because another participant has court-issued restraining orders against them.

In letters dated Feb. 11 to Sue C. Oppenheimer and Maureen McGrath, Nixon wrote that the women are prohibited from being at or near the senior center 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after the program ends on Thursdays. He instructed town employees to call police if the women are found violating the court order, according to his letter. The program began this month.

“We’re obliged to provide patrons with a safe place to enjoy this program,” Nixon said Monday. “We had to exercise our judgement as to whether to admit these people into the program. We couldn’t accommodate these individuals.”

Nixon said he was alerted to the situation by Suzanne Travisano, the town’s senior services director, who declined to comment Monday. The restraining orders, sought by Celestine Cybulski, also of Golden Court, were issued in November 2013 and are in effect for a year, according to Oppenheimer. Attempts to reach Cybulski for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

Oppenheimer said she was “shocked and dismayed” by Nixon’s letter outlawing her and McGrath from the knitting and crochet program.

“I thought it was rather harsh and that nobody bothered calling us,” said Oppenheimer, secretary of the Golden Court tenants’ association.

Oppenheimer, who has been a vocal critic of the of the town’s management of the Golden Court housing complex over the years, said she planned to write Nixon and Travisano protesting their intervention.

In unrelated matters involving other Golden Court tenants, Oppenheimer said she’s been subjected to anti-Semitic and other types of harassment at the state-subsidized housing complex in the past, and has never received any help from the town. The state-subsidized complex off Middle Street is home to 40 units for the elderly and disabled.

“There’s never been anybody in town that’s helped us on an issue here,” she said.

Nixon said he’s not aware of the details that led to the restraining orders against Oppenheimer and McGrath but said he reviewed copies of them.

The women are ordered not to abuse or contact Cybulski, stay away from her Golden Court residence and in all common areas.

“I don’t know any of the history, all I know is that this is two court orders,” Nixon said. “This is a situation where we would be responsible for the safety of the people signed up in the program.”

McGrath said the circumstances involving the court orders have been “blown out of proportion.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” she added.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

Related

Nadine Gallo: No restraining orders allowed at new Hadley knitting group

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To the editor: Knitting is such a peaceful activity that it’s hard to imagine needing a restraining order against two women who want to learn how to knit (Gazette, Feb. 26). These two particular women were effective Golden Court residents when we needed a handicapped accessible door on the community room and when some disturbances were happening in their vicinity. …

Legacy Comments12

Gazette- You have published an article about two seniors barred from a KNITTING class. However you have used an illustration of an entirely different form of needlework. You have published a photo of CROCHET. Theses are two entirely different processes with entirely different results. A little fact checking, if you please.

The program is a knitting and crochet class as the lead of the story states

ummm in what way does it matter if the class is knitting or crochet?? the point is just that two women were banned from a class.

Wow! I thought the Gazette was exercising excellent judgement running this article, and I thought it was well placed on the front page. It shows we have not come far from the Salem witch trial days, or more recently, the McCarthy era. It seems it is easy to be lazy and mean spirited. According to the Mass dot gov website, there does not need to be any evidence presented to get a restraining order issued, and the restraining order is not intended to restrict the constitutional rights of the person(s) being restrained. It just means that the person restrained cannot harass the person who requested the order (whether or not he or she had in fact harassed the person requesting the order in the past). Town Administrator David Nixon actually indicted himself, with his own words. He said, "We had to exercise our judgment as to whether to admit these people into the program." In other words, it was his decision to ignore the needs, wishes, feelings and constitutional rights of Ms. Oppenheimer and Ms. McGrath. He was not acting on the mistaken belief that he was forced by the restraining order to bar two two women from the town sponsored knitting class. Senior Services Director Suzanne Travisano could have called all three women into her office and in a friendly manor advised them that they must set aside their differences while they were in the knitting class. They may have knitted more than yarn; they may have discovered that they have much in common and can enjoy each other's friendship and support in their golden years.

"According to the Mass dot gov website, there does not need to be any evidence presented to get a restraining order issued ..." And that is an excellent example of just how whackadoodle our society has become.

Amen. Ms Travisano and Mr. Nixon are caught in the act of pre-judging a situation.

Shame on the Gazette for running this article. What purpose did it serve in airing this bit of dirty laundry prominently in the newspaper? And naming names? Was this really necessary? We do not know the facts behind this controversy, who did what or why restraining orders were issued, and in my opinion it is not our business to know. I am curious as to who brought this "story" to the Gazette's attention in the first place???

no shame needed. Gazette wouldn't run it if it wasn't interesting.

Truly sad that there are those who cannot live peacefully in their golden years. Can understand that the town has to enforce court orders. Perhaps there could be a way to mediate and allow both parties to attend the knitting program by taking turns, i.e. one goes one week and the other 2 in question go the opposite week.

For those of you who do not know "Mrs. McGrath" let me take a brief moment to enlighten you. Mrs. McGrath is my mother who is very loved and respected by her five daughters, twelve grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren, not to mention her many friends from all walks of life. While I don't know the exact number of years she has resided at Golden Court I do know she has done a lot of good for the many residents there. She takes those less able than her shopping and to their appointments and most importantly she has become their friend. I and my sisters are proud of her and we love and support her.

She's a great person with a sense of humor, which saves her from being a boring, hypocritical whacko like the one with the restraining order.

There's a handicapped accessible door in the Golden Court community building so residents with physical limitations can enter the building to do their laundry or any other features of the building. This door was finally installed because of the outspoken efforts of Ms. Oppenheimer and her comrade, Ms. McGrath. I am not a resident at Golden Court but have seen all the good these two women have done there. I'm proud to say I'm a friend to both of them and enjoy their company in our writing workshop. It's a sad day when the Town of Hadley's Administration can deprive two senior women of a knitting class because another person considers them a threat to her welfare. They have done more good at Golden Court than most people in town and they are no threat to anyone anywhere.

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