Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Remembrance of good people - Byrle Breny, Isabella Halsted

Bob La Trémouille reports:

I do not routinely read obituaries, but I was just, belatedly, finishing up last week’s (12/21/06) Cambridge Chronicle. I skimmed over the page containing the obituaries without realizing what it was.

My eye caught the very visibly placed “Byrle Breny” and then caught “Isabella Halsted” in a less visible location but with a lot more type.

Good friends. I have seen Byrle perhaps once in five years and Isabella less than that, but good friends. Byrle was 78 but had been living in Somerville for the last 10 years. She lived in Cambridge for 53. Isabella died in her home in Cambridge at 99 on Memorial Drive extension, half a block off Memorial Drive. At her age, I did not seriously consider bothering her in the recent past.

Byrle was the sort of good government person who lived in and kept Cambridge going during the rent control years. Her long time friend and roommate passed away at about the time that rent control died. They lived in the sort of little cottage which little people lived in in Cambridge for most of Cambridge’s existence. As the crow flies, they lived about three blocks north of Massachusetts Avenue. That was one of many working class neighborhoods in Cambridge when they moved in.

Isabella conducted and won a one person fight to close about half of Memorial Drive in Cambridge on Sundays for about seven months a year, the good seven months. Isabella also lived in what may have been a fairly humble place when she moved in. She owned half of a house adjacent to the Half Crown Historic District between Mt. Auburn Street and Memorial Drive, a few blocks from Harvard Square. This was a humble neighborhood very close to a very rich neighborhood. It was an extension of what were humble properties close to Harvard Square when that part of Harvard Square was still small scale residential.

The two of them lived in the sort of tiny areas which were hidden in Cambridge and missed by the casual visitor, but they did a lot of good from those areas.

Byrle lost her home as of the results of her friend dying. One income was not enough to keep it. That home was on a block long workers’street which is now amalgamated from a formerly humble street, into a now expensive part of the Mid-Cambridge neighborhood.

Isabella lived on a park which was split from the Charles by Memorial Drive. Her neighborhood was confusing to the casual observer with its remnants of working people. It has not been at all confusing for many years.

Byrle was a volunteer for the League of Women Voters, a good government person who aggressively fought for rent control while living in a privately owned house. She was helpful in a lot of my zoning fights in the middle part of Cambridge, on Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Central Squares, three blocks from her home.

Isabella is almost solely known for her successful fight to protect about half of Memorial Drive.

For the last seven years, I and a lot of good people have been protecting the less developed parts of Memorial Drive.

There has been a very major change from when Byrle and Isabella were active in that the Cambridge City Council has become very destructive of the world around us while piously proclaiming their environmental virtue based on fancy light bulbs.

Byrle and Isabella were both good friends. I miss them now and I have missed them for the past ten years.

May they rest in peace.