Olive V. Bugarin, a community activist who helped needy families as a volunteer at Catholic House, died Monday of heart failure at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Southwest Baltimore resident was 70.
Mrs. Bugarin led a group of volunteers each day that gathered and distributed food, clothing and furniture to needy families at Catholic House, a rowhouse at 314 S. Stricker St.
"She was one of the great matriarchs of Southwest Baltimore and willingly took on the bureaucracy. She was no one's lackey and had no time for phonies or do-gooders, and was adept at deflating puffed-up egos real fast," said the Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester and a former pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Southwest Baltimore.
Known as Miss Olive, Mrs. Bugarin also prepared daily lunches for scores of neighborhood children who otherwise wouldn't have eaten.
During holiday seasons, she delivered baskets of cheer to forgotten and poor families.
"She was certainly a one-man band at Catholic House and an icon in Southwest Baltimore," said Judith Benick, executive director of Communities Organized to Improve Life (C.O.I.L.) and a friend for nearly 30 years.
Mrs. Bugarin stood 5 feet tall, never drove a car, suffered from diabetes and ovarian cancer and had recently undergone heart-bypass surgery, but she worked tirelessly for the community, Ms. Benick said.
"She neglected herself to help others," said her daughter, Heidi Rico of Dundalk. "There was a neighbor woman who had no shoes, so she gave the lady her shoes."
Born Olive LeBlanc in Lynn, Mass., she was raised as a foster child and learned early in life what it was like to be unloved, unwanted and poor.
"She decided to commit her life so that no child would ever go hungry or be unloved," said Ms. Benick.
Mrs. Bugarin was educated in parochial schools in Massachusetts. She had worked as a supervisor for Gulf American, a land developer, and settled in Baltimore in 1963.
She earned an associate's degree in sociology from the old Bay College in Baltimore.
Her marriage ended in divorce.
She was a founder of C.O.I.L. and a member of its board at her death. She was also on the board of the Southwest Senior Center and on the Bon Secours Hospital Community Advisory Board.
She was a communicant of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, Poppleton and Hollins streets, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 9: 30 a.m. today.
She is also survived by a son, Frankie Bugarin of Baltimore; a sister, Ethel Shambarger of Lynn; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
! Pub date: 6/06/98