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Hays Free Press
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June 30, 2010     Hays Free Press
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June 30, 2010
 

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Page 4A NEWS Hays Free Press June 30, 2010 Mountain City Death: On Maple Drive, a solitary life Continued from pg. 1A house or having visitors. Maple Drive resident Iohn Hall said he's had perhaps two very brief conversations with Dowd -"Hi, how are you" - in the 17 years that they lived across the street from each other. Hall said he'd come to accept and not be bothered by the unkempt proper, and be- lieved it would have been disrespectful to ignore his neighbor's desire for privacy. "John Donne said we're all part of the great continent of mankind and the death of any one of us diminishes us all," Hall said. "We're all part of a neighborhood and it makes me feel very sad that the man passed away and no one had missed him for a while, but on the other side of the coin, he was a very pri- vate person who really put a high premium on his privacy. You have to respect that. I guess he lived and passed away in the fash- ion that best suited him." Since about 1993, Dowd lived in the home on Maple Drive with his elderly mother Hel- ena Dowd, whom neighbors said was retired from the U.S. milit. Dye said the mother was friendly, and urged her son to wave at the neighbors and maintain the yard. Helena Dowd's health failed in recent years, and about three years ago she passed away, leaving her son alone in the house. The condition of the property worsened at that point, neighbors say, and Dowd hadn't taken any steps to maintain the yard since last fall. On June 19, Dye said it dawned on him that he hadn't seen any activity at Dowd's house in at least two weeks, and he began to worry. Before making the call to the Hays Coun- ty Sheriff's Office, Dye followed the welfare check protocol he knew from his own job as a patrol supervisor with the IYavis County Sheriff's Office. He spoke with other neigh- bors to see if they'd seen Dowd in the past few days. He peered into the mailbox and saw several weeks worth of mail, including two separate utility bills, stacked inside. At that point, he knew it didn't look good. Pending an autopsy, Hays County of- ficials are unable to give a cause or time of death, but say they believe Dowd passed away anywhere from two to six weeks prior to being found. According to Hays County property re- cords, the home was listed as belonging to a family trust overseen by Dowd's brother, William Dowd. Reached by phone at his home in Illinois, William Dowd said that though his brother was reclusive and had issues with hoarding, "There was no indication he had any men- tal health issues at all." "Hewasjust aprivate person," Dowd said. "He was very intelligent, he did very well in school, he enjoyed reading." Michael Dowd studied at Purdue Univer- sity and received a degree in engineering from Ball State University in Muncie, Indi- ana, his brother said, but never worked in PHOTO BY JEN BIUNDO Mountain City resident Gordon Dye and other neighbors are joining forces and trying to maintain the property where Michael Dowd lived until his death several weeks ago. the field. William Dowd said he had been in con- tact with his brother, and was planning to come to Texas to take care of the estate. They haven't yet decided what they'll do with the property, he said. Meanwhile, a group of neighbors are com- ing together to try and maintain the badly deteriorating property. They're worried the home may have fallen so far into disrepair that it will have to be razed, but they're tak- ing steps to tame the jungle that has grown in the sprawling front and back yards. "Everyone has indicated some interest in pitching in," Dye said. "It's brought the neighbors together." He pointed to a path cleared through the high weeds. "I've done this here just to make a walk- way," Dye said. "This is about four hours worth of work." The soothing sound of nmning water fills the backyard, but it's not a fountain. Near the rubble-laden slab of what once may have been a garden shed, under a tangle of weeds and vines, a broken white PVC pipe is gushing water at the fate of a kitchen faucet on full blast. Dye said he tried to shut off the water main but was unable to budge it, and has called the Mountain City water supply Nearby, Dye is worried that another pool of standingwater might indicate a broken sep- tic system. Some counties have created multi-dis- ciplinary task forces to help hoarders, said /enna Baddeley, a Ph.D. candidate in clini- cal psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, because the conditions of their homes can often lead to public health risks such as rodent infestation, structural safety concems and fire hazards. Some homes be- come so full that firefighters and emergency workers can't make it inside to perform life- saving tasks. The exact nature and causes of hoard- ing are still being debated, though many psychologists believe hoarding is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hoarding, Baddeley said, is essentially characterized by the inability to discard possessions and differentiate between things that have value and things that are worthless. Many hoard- ers have strong emotional connections to the objects, making it difficult to throw them out. Hoarders tend to be socially isolated, and often struggle with depression. In a nega- tive cycle, they may be deeply embarrassed by the state of their home, and don't seek needed maintenance on the house because they don't want anyone to see the state in which they live. "The fact that he wasn't tending to his property is pretty common," Baddeley said. "The disorder is so impairing that it's hard to get daily tasks of living done." Though they have difficulty understand- ing why their neighbor lived and died alone, Maple Drive residents say Dowd's death has made them take a moment to appreciate their own es and loved ones. "I think it makes us all stop and think about our relationships with each other," Hall said. Ie agreed. "I count'my blessings," Dye said of his wife and tw6 sons. "I'm very lucky to have all that. Thf'e's a lot of things we take for granted." Kerrville Collector We are not a traveling road show, jewelry store or pawn shop which is why we can Pay Top Dollar In Cash For Coin Collections, Scrap Gold & Gold and Silver Coins Peter Casey. 830-792-5995 888-204-7891 "We will come to your home or your hunk." Austin Community College Board of Trustees Special Meeting Public Hearing Austin Community College Service Plan for Residents Within the Hays Consolidated Independent School District Thursday, July 7, 2010, 7:00 p.m. Hays Consolidated Independent School District Buda Elementary School, Kunkel Room 300 North San Marcos Street Buda, Texas 78610 C.Og.mE N AT TECH RIDGE ,999 $75,000 TO $124,999 $125,000 AND ABOVE **** 6 MOIH$ **** 6 MONTHS %**** 1.11%**** ,0000O,THS ,MONTHS 1.91%**** + u