Valley loses a shining light with passing of Mary O

The late Mary Oliver or ‘Mary O’ (far left) was well-known for her volunteer work in the Comox Valley. Dianne Bruon

The late Mary Oliver or ‘Mary O’ (far left) was well-known for her volunteer work in the Comox Valley. Dianne Bruon


Whether it was organizing hot lunches, patrolling Comox Valley streets or dropping off food for a sick friend, ‘Mary O’ was known for helping others.

Mary Oliver, who was known by those in the Comox Valley as ‘Mary O,’ passed away June 15 at the age of 83. A celebration of life was held June 20 at the Comox Valley Funeral Home, and longtime friend Betty Moore was one of those who spoke about what kind of person Mary was.

“If she ever heard that you were sick or had a traumatic incident she was always the first person on the phone,” Moore recalls after the celebration of life. “Then, within a short period of time, there’d be a knock on your door: ‘It’s Mary O. I brought you some soup. What else can I do?’ And this was Mary.”

Another longtime friend, Dianne Bruon, volunteered with the Comox Valley Citizens on Patrol Society with Mary, and says Mary spent many evening hours patrolling Comox Valley streets to help keep residents safe.

For about 20 years, Mary also organized a hot lunch each Tuesday for the local chapter of the BC Schizophrenia Society at St. George’s United Church in Courtenay.

“She worked so hard, every day of the week pretty near for that when she was doing the lunches,” recalls Bruon, noting Mary had to stop volunteering a number of years ago due to her age.

Other volunteers helped Mary put the lunches on for 60 to 70 members of the Schizophrenia Society and their case workers. She spent many hours each week hunting for bargains and gathering food donations to create a hot lunch within her budget limitations, according to Bruon.

She also kept her eyes open all year for items to go in Christmas gifts bags for those who attended the lunch each week.

“They were garbage bags — there was tons of stuff in them,” says Bruon, noting Mary hunted for bargains, and rounded up donations from businesses for these bags. If any bags were left over after handing them out to society members at the annual Christmas party, Mary took them to St. Joseph’s General Hospital’s psychiatry department to hand out there.

Mary spent time volunteering for the B.C. Senior Games, too. She was chairperson for the 2010 event when it was held in the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Mary was recognized for her volunteer efforts when she was named Citizen of the Year in 2003 in the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Community Awards.

Bruon says Mary spent much of her time helping others in the Comox Valley, and became friends with many of the people she helped.

“Everybody liked her,” says Bruon. “She was just one of those people that was sort of a character; everybody remembered her.

“You know how people say, ‘Let me know if you need any help.’ She wasn’t that kind of person. She was there, when people were sick or whatever, she was there.”


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