Ora R. Pierce, 74, a Lower Merion Township commissioner for 16 years and a longtime community worker in Ardmore, died of colitis Monday at Presbyterian Hospital.
Mrs. Pierce was born in Middlesex County, Va., and moved with her family to Ardmore when she was 8. She graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1953 and attended the Philadelphia School of Office Training.
She worked as an engineering assistant at Bell of Pennsylvania for 24 years, retiring in 1993.
But Mrs. Pierce's true calling was her work to improve the lives of township residents, especially children and senior citizens.
She gave countless hours to community groups, and when no organization existed to meet a need, she started one. In the 1960s, for example, she helped establish the Serendipity Day Camp, and the singing group she formed to raise money for the camp evolved into the Main Line Inspirational Choir.
Also during the 1960s, Mrs. Pierce helped found the Lower Merion Scholarship Fund to help high school students afford college. She also was first chief den mother for Cub Scout Pack 243.
In the 1980s, Mrs. Pierce led a successful effort to keep the Ardmore Library open.
In 1985, running as a Democrat, she won the Fourth Ward commissioner seat held by Nolan N. Atkinson Jr., who stepped down after 12 years.
Atkinson said Mrs. Pierce could "light up a room" with her personality and "was an outstanding commissioner."
During her tenure, Mrs. Pierce was chairwoman of the Grants Committee, vice chairwoman of the Residential Preservation Committee, and a member of the Health and Affordable Housing Committees. She also led the Lower Merion Township Memorial Day Parade Committee.
"Ora was a fabulous commissioner," said Carla J. Zambelli, a constituent. "She treated everyone equally, and was a fierce advocate for the Fourth Ward."
Charles F. Ward, president of the Board of Commissioners from 1982 to 1994, remembered working closely with Mrs. Pierce.
"I think she did a great job for Ardmore," Ward said. He credited her with helping find quarters for the Ardmore Senior Center and pushing for completion of the Ardmore Avenue Community Center begun by Atkinson.
In addition, Ward said, Mrs. Pierce quietly aided constituents who went to her with personal matters. "She was always helping people having problems," Ward said. "She will be missed."
After retiring from elected office in 2002, Mrs. Pierce stayed active. She was president of Ardmore Housing for the Elderly and the Lower Merion Development Corp., and vice president of Lower Merion Affordable Housing. She served on the board of directors for the Main Line Art Center, the Ardmore Progressive Civic Association, the Ardmore Avenue Community Center, and the Police and Community Relations Committee.
She also worked part time on constituent services for former State Sen. Connie Williams (D., Montgomery).
Mrs. Pierce was a longtime member of Zion Baptist Church in Ardmore.
Her husband, Bernard, a public-works supervisor for Lower Merion, died in 1989. They met when he rode by her bus stop and winked at her, the family said.
Mrs. Pierce is survived by daughters Tammy, Beth, Alees, and Lesa P. Ellis; stepsons Jerry Morris, William, Richard, and Michael Bright; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by a son, John; a daughter, Bonnie; and stepsons Bernard P. Williams and Terry Bright.
A viewing will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at Ardmore United Methodist Church, 200 Argyle Rd., Ardmore, followed by services at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester.
Memorial donations may be made to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Philadelphia Delaware Valley Chapter, 5070 Parkside Ave., Suite 1404, Philadelphia 19131.