Ester Bugna, historian, library commissioner and lifelong Menlo Park resident, dies at 84


Ester Bugna, 84, a dedicated member of the Menlo Park Historical Association and Library Commission until her last days, died May 6.

Bugna was born to parents Giacobbe and Rosalia at the Palo Alto Hospital in December 1934. Her father moved to Menlo Park around 1927 and worked as a gardener on the Hahn Estate, now known as the Fennwood Estate, in Atherton.

She spent her early years living in the caretaker's cottage at the former San Francisico Children's Aid Auxiliary, located at the corner of Arbor Road and Middle Avenue in Menlo Park, near Jack W. Lyle Park. She attended kindergarten at Central School and elementary school at Fremont School and St. Joseph's Parochial School.

She continued her schooling at Notre Dame High School, where she became friends with five women whom she also attended college with at the Notre Dame de Namur University. She earned scholarships and worked as an au pair for several families in Menlo Park to help pay her way through college. She graduated with honors in biological sciences.

Bugna spent most of her career, 35 years, working at the NASA-Ames Research Center. Her niece-in-law recalled that Bugna once told her a story about how she and her friends used to make moonshine at the lab after hours, then take it to the water tower in Sunol to watch the sunrise.

She was married for more than 30 years to Ted Sorenson, a former Menlo Park mayor who died in 2006.

According to her family, she accomplished what was unheard of back in the 1960s and purchased her Menlo Park home as a single woman in her 30s. She celebrated 50 years of home ownership this past Christmas.

She loved gardens, cats, travel (especially road trips and travel of the "armchair variety"), art, theater, calligraphy, haiku, and cooking shows. Mendocino was one of her favorite places, and she embraced the Italian term, "dolce far niente" — "How sweet it is to do nothing."

Information about her life was provided by her family and a bio she wrote for the Historical Association when she joined the group.

In a statement, Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller said that Bugna was a "kind, sweet person, whose every interaction was one of sharp intellect and a rich historical passion and love for Menlo Park. She was always open and unselfishly shared the wisdom she had gained as a team with her beloved husband Ted."

"Even into failing health, she was always looking for new opportunities to contribute and help others," he added.

According to Nick Szegda, assistant library services director, Bugna served as an "integral part" of the Library Commission over the past two years, and served as vice chair of the commission until her recent illness.

"She brought her perspective as a longtime resident, historian, and library user to the commission, championing youth involvement in commission work and supporting the library’s recent efforts to towards building a new branch library" he said. "Ester was a wonderful colleague, and her insight and warmth will be missed by all of us here at the library."

(The Menlo Park City Council appointed Kristina Lemons to fill the vacancy on the Library Commission created by Bugna's passing.)

Jim Lewis, president of the Menlo Park Historical Association, said that Bugna had served as the association's program chair and had been an active member of the association for many years. At its most recent meeting, Lewis said, the association took a moment to reflect on Bugna's memory.

"My hunch is there will be more to follow, as we get used to the idea she's not with us anymore," he said.


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4 people like this
Posted by jim lewis
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on May 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm

jim lewis is a registered user.

Ester was a one of a kind person, making her thoughts known and working hard to accomplish what she believed in. For those of us with the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA) she will be missed in so many ways. Rest in peace Ester, as you continue the next chapter. In the meantime, her accomplishments and aspirations for the Association will continue on.

5 people like this
Posted by Alan H Cohen, MD
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 16, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Esther was a passionate and thoughtful member of the Menlo Park community who genuinely cared about the quality of life of everyone in our little town. Having had the pleasure and good fortune to have worked with her these past two years on the MP Library Commission I witnessed first hand her commitment and generosity of spirit. She will be dearly missed but her legacy and that if her husband will undoubtedly serve as an prime example for all of us - as a reminder of the joy and importance of giving back and participating in public service.

Rest In Peace Esther.

Thank you for your friendship, mentor ship and all of your years of hard work helping to make MP a place we all enjoy living in!

Alan Cohen, MD and family.

4 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wilcox
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 16, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Ester was a lovely and friendly woman, full of energy and curiosity about life. She is very much missed.

2 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 17, 2019 at 10:10 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

I was shocked and saddened to learn of Ester's premature passing. What a reminder to not put off time with friends and family and I'm sorry that I was unable to say a final goodby. I also enjoyed serving with her on the Library Commission and appreciated her shrewd insights, research ability and dedication to service. Counting her as a friend too, I also enjoyed our outings to see public libraries in other towns along with social get-togethers. She will be deeply missed. Her presence and impact in Menlo Park was significant. Rest in Peace Ester and please know that you will not be forgotten.

Like this comment
Posted by Tim Johnston
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 21, 2019 at 10:15 am

I am deeply saddened to learn that Ester Bugna has passed away. Ester was a sweet, kind-hearted soul with a profound love for all things Menlo Park. She was a jewel!

Like this comment
Posted by Tim Johnston3
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 21, 2019 at 10:17 am

I am deeply saddened to learn that Ester Bugna has passed away. Ester was a sweet, kind-hearted soul with a profound love for all things Menlo Park. When i think of Menlo I think of Ester.

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