Connie Cucina (Baltimore Sun / August 31, 2011)

Constance L. "Connie" Cucina, a longtime volunteer at Stella Maris Hospice, where she had been a familiar figure in the gift shop helping patients and their families for more than 20 years, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at her Towson home.

She was 78.

The daughter of a wholesale produce broker and a homemaker, Constance Lee Demarco was born in Baltimore and raised on Cold Spring Lane and Springhill Avenue.

She was a 1951 graduate of Seton High School. Four years later, she married Samuel D. Cucina, who was also in wholesale produce.

"I first met her on Easter Sunday in 1944 in Druid Hill Park, and we also used to go to a social club at St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church," said Mr. Cucina, who is retired from the Fava Fruit Co.

"She was a wonderful woman and the ultimate homemaker for our family," said a sister, Sister Fran Demarco, who is a member of the Sisters of Mercy and lives in Parkville. "She was a character and had millions of friends."

Mrs. Cucina, who lived in Towson's Campus Hills neighborhood, had been a longtime volunteer at Stella Maris in Timonium and for more than 20 years worked in its gift shop, where she was known for her endlessly cheerful and caring demeanor and her window decorations.

Another chore she handled was purchasing stock for the shop.

Mrs. Cucina fully embraced the role as being a personal shopper for residents of Mercy Ridge retirement community and Stella Maris.

"She'd get calls from patients requesting something, and if she didn't have it in the gift shop, she'd go and get it and tell them, 'I'll get it and bring it to you,'" said Sister Fran.

"Connie was always the first person there when someone was in need. ... She was also a good listener," said Sister Fran.

"She had excellent taste in purchasing gift items for the shop," said an aunt, Marianna Fava-Peyton, who lives at St. Elizabeth Hall Apartments for seniors at Stella Maris and is a gift shop volunteer.

"All the residents loved her," she said.

"There was nothing too big or too little that she wouldn't do for the people here. She never walked slowly to anything she was going to do. It was always a full trot," said Sister Louis Mary Battle, a Sister of Mercy who is president emerita of Stella Maris.

"She was a character who was never overshadowed by her wanting to do good for others," she said.

Sister M. Karen McNally, also a Sister of Mercy, is chief administrative officer at the Timonium facility.

"She was a longtime volunteer here and a member of the auxiliary since 2000. She was a most outstanding and loving person who was always looking out for someone else," said Sister Karen.

"She came very Wednesday and brought a group of other women volunteers who worked in the gift shop. I always called them the Wednesday Group," she said.

"About a month ago, while she was getting chemotherapy, Connie got a call from an older lady she cared for who had misplaced her car keys and got flustered. She got out of bed and had her husband drive her to Stella Maris so she could help the woman," said Sister Karen.

"Connie thrived on helping others," she said.