Maria Carmen Cortes Bugena passed away at home in Princeton on June 24. She was 97.
Over the course of five decades, Maria devoted her life to the care and nurture of others. In this way, she truly became a member of each of the families with whom she worked. She set an unsurpassed example of dignity and humility noted by any who had the pleasure to meet her.
Born four months premature on a ship off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile, to Liborio Cortes and Clara Bugena, her long life defied all odds. After contracting polio at the age of five, Maria was left unable to walk for over a year. It was during this time that she learned to sew as she helped her mother tailor uniforms for the Chilean navy.
The third of twelve children, Maria remained in Chile until she saw both of her parents through their respective battles with cancer. Working for the John M. Schmunk family as a housekeeper and nanny during their years in Santiago, Maria emigrated to the United States in June 1964 to continue working with the family in Titusville, NJ.
Maria’s final station was that of housekeeper and cook for Mr. and Mrs. Bertram F. Bonner in Princeton. Working for the couple and their family for over 25 years, Maria faithfully maintained her post for a year following the passing of Mrs. Corella C. Bonner in 2002. It was not until 2003 at the age of 83 that Maria officially stopped working. While her formal duties may have ended, Maria’s love for and devotion to those around her was undying.
Maria is survived by the five women whom she helped to raise and their families: Danner (Schmunk) and Andrew Reibe of Titusville, NJ, and their children Brendan, Sian and Liela; Barbara (Schmunk) and David Burdick of Glenmoore, PA, and their children Alli and Ryan; June (Schmunk) and Brian Cullen of Amherst, NH, and their children Eliza, Alexandra and Isabella; Caitlin Hughes of New York City; and Johanna (Hughes) and John Hunsbedt of Princeton, NJ, and their children Oliver and Audrey.
A memorial Mass will be held at St. Paul’s Church in Princeton on Saturday, July 29 at 10:00 am.
In lieu of flowers, Maria wished that donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.