NEW BEDFORD — For decades, New Bedford's South End has had one of the most caring people looking after it that you could ask for.

Loretta Bourque was a founding member of the Cove Street Neighborhood Association, and longtime president of the group since the mid-1990s, meeting regularly to discuss concerns of residents and present ideas to local leadership.

Bourque passed away Tuesday at 98 years old.

She was also influential in organizing the Catholic Social Services Food Pantry, in addition to being a member of the South End Civic Association since 1963.

Ward Six City Councillor Joe Lopes tells WBSM News Bourque was a stalwart custodian of the South End.

"There was no one else that I could say that would get up on a microphone that would tell people 60 years - 70 years - 80 years younger than her 'Don't forget to pick up that can that you threw on the floor! Throw it in the garbage," recalled Lopes. "Or we'd be at a Christmas tree lighting, and people would stop what they were doing, pick up their hot cocoa cups, and look for a garbage receptacle because they cared about her and what she was doing for the community."

While Bourque was often outspoken about problems within New Bedford, she was never seen as just another bystander shouting from the sidelines. In 2013, Bourque helped to advocate for Mayor Jon Mitchell's proposal of a problem properties ordinance, which is in place today.

Speaking to her passion for her community and the people in it, Councillor Lopes could only surmise that it was a product of her upbringing. "She grew up in a generation where you took pride in what you owned. You didn't throw things away. If something was broken, you fixed it. And before something was broken, you maintained it. To a lady that grew up in the Depression, you value what you have."

In 2011, then-Mayor Scott Lang helped dedicate a pocket park on Ruth Street in Loretta Bourque's honor.

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