Muyango lived her life by the words of “The Dash,” a poem by Linda Ellis.
By Jason Phox
Photo: John Altdorfer
Geraldine R. Muyango, known as “Ms. Bert” to the Northside community, died on Dec. 29, 2020 at 53 due to complications from COVID-19.
According to her obituary, Muyango attended New Hope United Methodist Church on the Northside and helped with their outreach programs until it closed in 2016. She later became a member of New Destiny Church where she continued to serve the Northside community.
Muyango lived in the Northside for over 25 years, according to Diane Ivy, a friend of hers. Ivy knew Muyango as someone who truly loved to support people and her community. Muyango and her sister, Mary Smith, ran a 24/7 daycare called the Mary E. Smith Family Child Care Home.
According to Ivy, Muyango always had a large group of children around her and took care of people because she loved it. She tried to keep her life private, but the Northside community knew how much she helped people and thus, her life was open to others.
Muyango, for years, would set up on the Boulevard of the Allies in downtown Pittsburgh once a week and give food to those who needed it, while doctors provided medical needs to the homeless.
During the holidays, Muyango ran a fund which gave gifts and supplies to underserved families. People would help by donating gifts for Muyango to hand out to them.
“She [Muyango] said her and six siblings would get abused when she was younger, and never truly had a Christmas as a child,” Ivy recalled. “She said, So now I make it joyful for everybody around the holidays.’”
Ivy explained that last Christmas, Muyango could not do the meal program because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but continued with gift giving, and handing out gifts to families outside of her house.
When Ivy asked Muyango why she helped people, Muyango explained that she loved it; that it brought her joy to see help people. Muyango volunteered at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to help provide food to families in the Northside.
“Every year for the last five years, people donated toys to her [Muyango] and got them together for families,” Ivy said. “She would ‘adopt’ 100 families a year and have a big dinner. All these officials would come and help, and she would have them wearing aprons serving dinner to the community.”
Muyango was also affiliated with The Pittsburgh Project. Once a week, she would watch over peoples’ children while they would have a meeting there. Every summer for two weeks, Muyango ran a Bible study for children.
Ivy started a GoFundMe page for Muyango’s sister, Mary. In it, Muyango is described as having a “servant’s heart.”
“When you asked her, ‘What do you need for yourself?,’ she smiled and said, “Just prayers.”
Muyango was also known to live by the words of “The Dash,” a poem by Linda Ellis, which refers to the “dash” between a person’s date of birth and date of death, or “all the time they spent alive on earth.” It reads:
“For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”