Margaret M. Pacunas, 64, activist in Mayfield

September 14, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Margaret M. Pacunas, a neighborhood activist who was the former president of the Mayfield Improvement Association, died of cancer Tuesday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. She was 64 and lived in Mays Chapel.

Born and reared Margaret Mary Miller in Highlandtown, the youngest of nine children, she was a 1956 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame.

After she married Charles D. Pacunas in 1959 - "She was the smartest and prettiest girl in the fifth grade when I first met her," he said, "and she always stayed that way" - the young couple settled in Worcester, Mass., where he attended the College of the Holy Cross.

While living there, Mrs. Pacunas became something of a local celebrity when her voice was used in radio advertising on WAAB as the character of "Sally Fair."

In 1971, the couple, who later divorced, moved to Baltimore and settled on Mayfield Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, and Mrs. Pacunas worked as a medical secretary. She later established a business as a free-lance medical office manager.

The purchase of an abandoned house on Mayfield Avenue propelled her into activism.

The run-down house was a "neighborhood eyesore," Mr. Pacunas recalled. "After she rehabilitated it, it was a showplace."

"She got active in the neighborhood association because she wasn't one to sit on the sidelines. She was outgoing and personable and wanted the neighborhood to remain strong and healthy," he said.

"Her death is a huge loss," he added.

Mrs. Pacunas was a longtime board member of the Mayfield Improvement Association, and later was its first woman president. She established and edited the Mayfield News, a community newsletter, and fought the city's plan to build an ice-skating rink near Lake Montebello in 1985.

She was involved in politics as a volunteer. She worked in Del. Dennis C. McCoy's and John Carroll Burns' bids for the state Senate and judgeship, and Joseph T. "Jody" Landers' run for Baltimore City Council in 1983 and 1987, as well as his 1997 campaign for comptroller.

"Marge was a real enthusiastic cheerleader for her community and a number of political campaigns," said Mr. Landers, former city councilman and executive vice-president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"She was a supporter of state comptroller and former mayor William Donald Schaefer, even though they clashed over the ice-rink facility," he said.

Mr. Landers described her as "bright and cheerful."

Mr. Landers and Mayfield residents looked forward to Mrs. Pacunas' annual Shrove Tuesday doughnut-and-coffee party: "She'd invite the whole neighborhood. ... She made the dough and fried them in her kitchen. My daughters, who are now in their 20s, still call her the `Doughnut Lady,'" said Mr. Landers.

Mrs. Pacunas, who moved to Mays Chapel in 1992, was an avid hiker and enjoyed walking the trails of Gunpowder State Park. She also enjoyed playing bridge, attending the Mechanic Theater and visiting Ocean City.

"Her charm, talent and clever wit engaged many throughout the years," said a daughter, Elizabeth Pacunas of Minneapolis. "And she leaves behind a wide and diverse community of individuals, from artists, politicians, community volunteers, to ... neighbors and finally her fellow cancer patients, all of whom called her a close friend."

Mrs. Pacunas had been a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Mayfield.

She was also a member of St. Joseph Texas Roman Catholic Church, 103 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. today.

Mrs. Pacunas also is survived by a son, David Pacunas of Minneapolis; two other daughters, Caroline Flick of Mays Chapel and Marianne Pagels of Alexandria, Va.; and two grandchildren.

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