Pedestrian killed in Arlington crosswalk was Cantabrigian from public housing
Who was the woman struck and killed on Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington in December?
Neighbors knew her as Lucy, the woman pushing a walker who died after a car hit her Dec. 19. Police identified her as Elba Ortiz-Delgado. They said she was homeless, from Boston and age 77.
But she had a home – and some neighbors who cared about her.
One was Juliet Blackett. “It made me so angry when I read the Globe story,” she said in an interview. “She scared people, but she didn’t scare me. I’d like to know what going to happen to her.”
Possibly facing a further charge in the death near the neighborhood’s longest crosswalk without traffic or walk signals is Paul S. Giragosian, 67, of Arlington. The existing charges are operating without a license and failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
What first angered Blackett was that some facts in the story were not as she knew them.
For one, Ortiz-Delgado had a home, and it was not in Boston. She lived just down the hall from Blackett’s apartment in the Daniel F. Burns Apartments on Churchill Avenue in North Cambridge, near Matignon High School. The 199 units are managed by the Cambridge Housing Authority, mainly for seniors and the disabled.
For another, she doubted the woman was 77 years old. “She was younger than I,” asserted Blackett, who is 70. “Maybe in her late 50s, early 60s.”
She appeared older, because of illness and how she dressed – the layers of clothing that made her appear to be homeless.
“Who will bury her?”
The depth of Blackett’s concern reached beyond inaccurate details provided to journalists by police. Her eyes intense, she asked: “What’s going to happen now? Who will bury her?”
The questions are hard to answer, because the woman who died at Massachusetts General Hospital six days before Christmas may have no immediate family.
What Blackett knows about this part of the story is hazy: There may be a sister in Puerto Rico. A former resident of the Burns apartments told Blackett there could be a daughter in this country, but she didn’t know where.
Efforts to learn more from official sources were inconclusive. Representatives for the offices of the Middlesex district attorney and the state medical examiner declined to comment while the case is under investigation.
Knew Lucy since late 1990s
Blackett had known Ortiz-Delgado since the late 1990s, when the latter moved into the Burns apartments. Before that, she had no established placed to live.
“I say I ‘knew’ her for years,” she wrote in an email before the interview, “but actually knew very little about her and her history, except that she had at one time studied voice and showed signs of considerable intelligence before her withdrawal from social contact.”
In a Dec. 31 interview, Blackett could not say where or when she had studied voice. A commenter to a Dec. 20 WickedLocal story who called herself Maria Christina Blanco wrote: “Lucy Delgado was a Boricua [from Puerto Rico] that originally came to Boston to study to be a singer.”
“Life closed in around her”
In recent years, “life close in around her,” Blackett said, spreading her arms, then bringing her hands toward one another, “and she declined to talk.”
Because she helped arrange doctors’ appointments for her, Blackett was able to say Lucy was afflicted with cancer. When she was allowed into her apartment, Blackett said, she knew that her neighbor allowed the leftovers from her life to pile around her – marks of a hoarder.
Lucy declined to take the T or The Ride, and she dressed as she did – in multiple layers, no matter the season – because she feared germs, Blackett said.
Blackett said she was only one among those who expressed kindness toward Lucy at the Burns apartments.
Once, Lucy asked her whether she had an extra pair of boots to spare. Blackett said she gave her $10 and suggested she go to Goodwill in Davis Square.
Periodically, for the past two years, Blackett said she would open her apartment door and find something left for her. These “gifts” included an old newspaper ad, a half bottle of body lotion, a tangerine, two aspirin, small salt-and-pepper shakers. She believes Lucy left them.
For exercise, Blackett said, Lucy would pull herself up and down on the railing by the stairs that led to a rear building exit.
Blackett suspected Lucy let homeless people into a rear door so they could sleep on the floor. She never saw her do it, but evenings, she would find Lucy waiting by the door.
Blackett called the Burns “a world unto itself,” a place where people seemed to have been warehoused, some of whom have frightening behavior. Not Lucy.
While Blackett said she has seen alcohol and drug use at Burns, she said she never saw Lucy under the influence of either.
“Many people chose to look away”
“Lucy’s life had been nothing short of tragic due to physical and mental disability,” Blackett wrote before the interview. “Many people chose to ‘look away’ from her – she dressed, as many ‘street people’ do … scavenged through garbage cans, hoarded and acted in a way many would consider crazy.
“Yet, she was a kindly soul, a threat to no one except that her very presence repelled and offended many … In the words of a kindly neighbor in our hallway, toward the end, ‘She was no longer with us in this world.’”
Lucy may have been on a neighborhood collection foray in East Arlington the night a car hit her near Sabatino’s Italian Kitchen. In Blackett’s words, “Lucy obviously continued to live as she had for perhaps many years — a night person, gleaning what she could from the leavings of the ‘haves.’”
Asked about that, a police spokesman deferred comment to Arlington’s Public Works Department.
Michael Rademacher, director of Public Works, wrote in an email Wednesday: “We routinely take these bollards in each year when the winter weather season begins. I do not have the exact date when [the traffic posts] at this particular location was removed.”
A possible further charge against Giragosian awaits completion of the district attorney’s investigation, which will include a report of a state accident-reconstruction team. Police will not say officially when that might be, but it could be in February.
A version of this story originally appeared on YourArlington.com.