By Sallie James
MANALAPAN — She was a dedicated volunteer who spent years helping in the town library and working at the polls, but it was the warmth that emanated from longtime resident Olga Cuyar’s bubbly personality that made her so unforgettable.
Mrs. Cuyar died at home on Feb. 27 of complications related to cancer. She was 96.
She and her husband, Bob, bought a house in Manalapan in 1980 and lived in town part-time before becoming full-time residents in 1994.
Those who knew her said she touched the hearts of everyone she met. Mrs. Cuyar volunteered her time serving as a deputy at the elections at Manalapan Town Hall and volunteered at the town library and at the Church Mouse resale shop in Palm Beach. Her love for people, her ability to “work a room,” her personal style, her affection for dogs and her amazing way of encouraging others will always be remembered, her friends and family said.
“The Bible teaches us that we should let God’s light shine through us to others, and no one did this better than Olga. She always reached out to people she had never met and instantly befriended them. Always shining that light,” said longtime friend and neighbor Monique Bubnow, who considered Mrs. Cuyar as family. “For Olga, there were no strangers in any room she would walk into. Her infectious, fun-loving spirit attracted everyone like no one could.”
A people person. A natural beauty. A world traveler. An animal lover. A social butterfly. Love. All are traits that distinguished Mrs. Cuyar and made her the memorable person she was, said her husband.
A native of Puerto Rico, Mrs. Cuyar was born on Jan. 11, 1927, in Santurce, but moved to Manhattan at age 4. She spent much of her adult life traveling. She lived in Spain, Morocco and Iceland before finally returning to Manhattan, her husband said. Mrs. Cuyar worked in the travel business most of her life, with stints at American Express and later, the Finnish airline Finnair.
Bob Cuyar met his future wife on a dog day afternoon. He was trying to find a pet for his mother and had heard about a woman at American Express who was selling a chihuahua. He thought it would be the perfect companion for his mother so he decided to take a look.
What he found changed the course of his life.
“When she opened the door, that’s who I was going to marry,” Bob Cuyar recalled, chuckling. “But there was a little complication. She was married.”
The two hit it off, and crossed paths again when she asked him to accompany her and her husband to a social event because he fit the bill.
“[Olga] was going to a party and the hostess asked, ‘Do you know someone who is a college graduate, has a tuxedo and some social graces?’” Bob Cuyar had the degree and the tux, scoring the invite with two out of three. But shortly thereafter, he lost track of his dream date, who disappeared into the mist for about three years.
The two crossed paths again by chance on the streets of Manhattan.
“I’m walking down Broadway and there she is, divorced but with a boyfriend. But when she was mad at the boyfriend, she would talk to me,” Bob Cuyar said.
It was an arrangement that ultimately worked out in his favor.
“Then we got married, and we were married for 53 years,” Bob Cuyar said. The couple traveled the world, never had children, but owned many dogs over time.
Bubnow said Mrs. Cuyar was a devoted Catholic whom she drove to church — Holy Name of Jesus in West Palm Beach — many times during the pandemic.
“She would get so excited and loved going, and of course, Father Antony!” Bubnow recalled, referring to Holy Name’s pastor, the Rev. Antony Pulikal. She said Mrs. Cuyar never complained about her advancing illness and remained smiling and upbeat.
“I guess the most important thing I’ve learned from Olga is that no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, we need to be strong and shine the light unto others everywhere we go,” Bubnow said. “There is always a way to uplift someone by showing kindness and bringing them out of their shell to feel alive and loved.
“It is certain that the world is a richer place for her having been in it, and she will be sorely missed,” Bubnow said.
Services for Mrs. Cuyar were held on March 14 at Holy Name of Jesus.