‘Festooned’ farewell to a Ninth Street Hill legend
Jane Boswell was a force on Ninth Street Hill, setting an example other Lafayette neighborhoods followed. Also: A judge limits which cops can be sued in the 2018 fatal shooting of Glenn Rightsell
Lafayette lost a great neighborhood force in Jane Boswell this week.
Boswell was a real instigator, in the best sense of the word, as a founder of the Ninth Street Hill Neighborhood Association – an early entry into the neighborhood advocacy game in Lafayette – and all the good things that came with it: The bagged luminaria that lighted the hill like a string of pearls at Christmastime, the steady revitalization of some of Lafayette’s best kept historic homes and, of note this weekend, the neighborhood’s annual Festooned Fourth.
Boswell died at home Thursday of complications of cancer. She was 73. It was news that prompted black bunting over the Ninth Street Hill Neighborhood’s historic marker at Ninth and State streets and had neighbors, artists and others who felt her presence over the decades repeating what they’d heard from her often: Bless her heart.
Boswell was all about get-togethers and doing things, well, because you could. That’s how the former Lafayette Jefferson High School art teacher wound up in the middle of rebuilding Ninth Street Hill’s image, starting in the late-‘80s, along with Dave and Sandy Lahr and other stalwarts along a distinctive, four-block stretch.
I liked how she told about those early “working parties,” get-togethers that doubled as revitalization efforts designed to pump up a near-downtown neighborhood, in an installment of Lafayette Printing’s “Local Color” ad campaign in the early-2000s. (Thanks to copy writer Angie Klink for sharing it again.) Boswell talked about how neighbors first met in the street to pick up trash.
“People would roar up Ninth Street and throw out trash,” she said. “The only thing festooned then was garbage on the iron fences. … We wanted to lift up downtown as a nice place to live, raise children and have a neat life,” Boswell said.
That led to countless neighborhood parties, abundant encouragement for home and property upkeep, the luminaria in the winter and the bunting and historic U.S. flags strung from Ninth Street porches every Fourth of July.
“The Ninth Street Hill Festooned Fourth is about what is best,” Boswell said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate. My Mississippi grandmother said, ‘There are too few occasions today to celebrate.’”
Ninth Street Hill Neighborhood Association, no one-person show, for sure, took on questions of zoning, historic district designations and just about any threat residents saw that might compromise the look, feel and future of the hill. The American Planning Association lists Ninth Street Hill among its “Great Places in America:” “These efforts not only have stabilized this historic area, but they transformed Ninth Street Hill into one of the country's most welcoming, attractive and active neighborhoods.”
A quick personal story (everyone who knew Jane Boswell has one or two, for sure): When Jane caught wind that Carol and I had looked at a house just off Ninth Street Hill about 20 years ago, she called: 'What kind of cookies do you like best?' She was already working on a welcome-to-the-neighborhood. We wound up several blocks away. She said the cookie offer was still good and swung by to see us as we moved in.
Always inviting. Always ready for an excuse to get together and entertain. Always on it when it came to making a corner of Lafayette the place to be. Lafayette was lucky to have everything Jane Boswell gave.
FOR MORE: Here’s Jane Boswell’s obituary, which will tell you more.
Trooper who fired fatal shot can be sued, not others, in Glenn Rightsell civil case
A federal lawsuit against an Indiana State Police trooper who shot and killed Glenn Rightsell, a 56-year-old Linden business owner in 2018, may continue, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
But Gloria Rightsell, Glenn Rightsell’s widow, may not sue other officers and police departments – all of whom arrived on the scene after the shooting – for their roles, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the court’s Southern District of Indiana.
Gloria Rightsell’s civil case had named the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Indiana State Police, two county deputies and a Crawfordsville police officer, all of whom filed a motion to dismiss. The judge ruled Rightsell hadn’t proved anyone was in a position to be sued, other than Trooper Daniel Organ, for violating her husband’s constitutional rights.
Organ shot Glenn Rightsell in the face on a December 2018 night, while the Linden man was working under the hood of his daughter’s stalled vehicle along U.S. 231. The Montgomery County prosecutor said charges weren’t warranted in the shooting, concluding a nine-week investigation in 2019 by writing that “sufficient evidence exists that Mr. Organ was subjectively in fear of death of serious bodily injury and that he honestly believed a gun was being drawn to shoot him.” Despite calls from Rightsell to police that he’d be with the stranded SUV, Organ said he saw a holster on Rightsell’s hip and assumed he was going for it as he pushed his way back from under the hood.
Rightsell died later that night, after being forced to crawl along the roadside ditch so he could be handcuffed by police taking cover behind patrol cars. The prosecutor’s report said six shots were fired; none came from Rightsell, whose gun was still holstered when he was told to crawl to police.
Gloria Rightsell filed the civil suit in December 2019. When she did, her Indianapolis-based attorney Bruce Kehoe said, “Behavior like this absolutely cannot go unchecked. There has to be a moment of accountability.”
This and that …
HAPPY FOURTH, JUST A REMINDER: After skipping the big festivities in downtown Lafayette in 2020 – thanks, COVID – Lafayette Freedom Fest returns Sunday. This year, the city will add a July Fourth parade, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday at 18th and Main streets, following a similar route to the Memorial Day Parade toward Columbian Park. The Stars and Stripes Concert starts at 6 p.m. at Riehle Plaza in downtown Lafayette, featuring the Lafayette Citizens Band, Freedom Singers, Lafayette Jeff Jazz Combo and Alumni Band and Clave Caribe. Fireworks are scheduled at 10 p.m. over the Wabash River.
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