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Javier G. Bustamante, Social Security executive, dies

Javier Garcia Bustamante, a retired Social Security Administration executive who was a pioneer in making the agency's documents available in Spanish, died of prostate cancer Nov. 4 at Senator Bob Hooper House in Bel Air.

He was 75 and a former Southwest Baltimore resident.

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Born in Seville, Spain, he was the son of Fermin Garcia Roncal, a justice on the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, and his wife, Luz Bustamante Aldalur.

He graduated from high school in Madrid in 1958. Family members said he spent the summers of 1961 and 1962 in France, Germany and the Netherlands. He earned his travel expenses singing in public areas, including plazas and train stations, and playing guitar.

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He served in the Spanish military from 1963 to 1965. While in the service, he met his future wife, an exchange student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They later moved to Iowa, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1974.

Mr. Bustamante worked as a janitor, bus driver and night fire patrol officer at an Iowa Quaker Oats plant to earn tuition money and learn English. He received a bachelor's degree from Coe College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi national honor societies.

He joined the Social Security Administration in Davenport in 1975 and relocated to the Social Security headquarters in Woodlawn in 1979.

"He had a long and distinguished career as a public servant in the Social Security Administration," said Martha Brunner, a colleague from the Woodlawn agency who resides in Columbia.

He was sent to the headquarters to head the translation of thousands of Social Security notices into Spanish.

After that task was completed, he worked in the agency's Office of Budget. He later joined the Office of Communications, and retired in 2015 as the chief of the Office of Media Technology,.

Ms. Brunner said that her colleague was "one of the agency's pioneers" in developing the administration's presence on the internet.

"He was long a champion of the population with limited English proficiency," she said, "and he led efforts to make Social Security public information available in 17 languages via print materials and the internet."

She said in his role in the Office of Media Technology, he oversaw graphic design development and the production of public information materials in print and electronic formats, including videos and webinars.

"He was a visionary part of the team that created the first website for Social Security and later automated the process to allow people to apply for the benefits online," she said. "He was so much fun too. He could always make you laugh. He was so full of life and enthusiastic, and he had a sincere dedication to his work."

In 1994 he was awarded a citation from the agency for "outstanding services to all SSA components by providing Spanish translations of SSA written notices, publications and automated notices for the public."

Family members said he also involved himself in Baltimore's Hispanic community.

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In 1990 he founded Coloquio, a bilingual local magazine that he produced four times a year. The publication included his own reporting and commentaries, as well as local, national and international news.

Family members said that in 2002 he grew tired of stuffing thousands of copies every quarter, and moved the publication online. They said his work on Coloquio fostered his interest in local issues, and he became involved in Baltimore politics.

He supported the mayoral candidacy of Sheila Dixon and state Comptroller Peter Franchot, and also formed Hispanics for O'Malley, a group supporting Martin O'Malley. He was later appointed to the city Planning Commission by then-Mayor O'Malley, where he served until 2009.

He was also appointed to the Trials Courts Judicial Nominations Commission, and then-Mayor Dixon named him to her 2006 transition team.

A celebration of life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Fleet Street Kitchen, 1012 Fleet Street.

Survivors include his wife of 14 years, Josefa Santome Bustamante; two daughters, Alicia Bustamante Schmidt of Baltimore and Margo Bustamante Yerk of Lee's Summit, Mo.; a stepson, Manuel Varela of Washington; and six grandchildren. A son, Alejandro "Alex" Bustamante, died in 2009. An earlier marriage to the former Margaret Jo Luvaas ended in divorce.

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