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Education leader, Courthouse Museum backer Bultena dies

Maureen Bultena
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Maureen Bultena Merced Sun-Star

There were a number of loves in Maureen Sue Bultena's life: her family, schools, church, preserving local history, gourmet cooking and the community in general.

Bultena, 68, was a Merced resident since 1972 and died Monday.

"Maureen was very committed to kids and was very active in the community," said former Merced Mayor Hub Walsh. "She will be severely missed."

Bultena served from 1993 to 1999 on the Merced City School District Board of Education and remained active as a founding member with the district's Long Range Facilities Master Plan Citizens Advisory Committee and at Donn B. Chenoweth School where her grandchildren attend.

At Tuesday's meeting, school board members held a moment of silence in honor of Bultena.

"She was very much concerned about children and the school district as a whole," said former school superintendent Don De Long. The current superintendent, RoseMary Parga-Duran, said Bultena truly will be missed.

"She was a champion of getting parents and especially grandparents involved. She started the grandparents' initiative at Chenoweth School and was very involved in special occasions there," Duran said.

Bultena was a key player in restoration of Merced County's historic courthouse and remained very involved in courthouse operations, according to Sarah Lim, executive director of the courthouse museum.

"It's truly a great loss to our museum family," Lim said. "She was a very valuable member of the museum committee. She helped train new museum docents and served longer here than anybody else. She was a great teacher and a great friend."

The 15th annual courthouse tea party April 24 will be dedicated to Bultena, Lim said.

Born Sept. 18, 1941, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Freida Rabe Kramer and Albert Kramer, her family moved to Michigan when Bultena was 10 years old. The family moved to Southern California in 1955 and Bultena graduated from Anaheim High School in 1959.

Bultena already had met her future husband, David A. Bultena, at a church youth group. The Bultenas were married in December 1962 and she graduated the following year from Long Beach State with a degree in sociology. She was a member of the Delta Zeta sorority.

Patti Kishi, president of the Merced County Historical Society, praised Bultena.

"She contributed a lot to the work of the historical society. She always supported us and helped at different events," Kishi said.

Chenoweth School Principal Paula Heupel said Bultena made a big difference at the school.

"We're just heartbroken," Heupel said. "The teachers counted on her. She had a positive impact. As principal at this site, I know she was very dedicated to volunteering with her grandchildren and Chenoweth was very thankful."

Maureen Bultena was appointed to the school board Nov. 16, 1993, to fill the unexpired term of Ron Cortez who was elected to the Merced City Council. She was elected to a four-year term in 1995 and served with Paul DeAyora, Karen Coles, Sue Fletcher and Leo Hernandez. She was board president in 1996 through 1998.

Hernandez, a retired educator with California State University, Stanislaus, said Bultena was very interested in children and the schools. He recalled she loved to cook and was always volunteering in school even when she was a trustee.

"Maureen was a very pleasant person and I never heard a cuss word from her. She was very proud of her family," Hernandez said.

Bill Blake, former undersheriff and a member of the Merced City Council, said Bultena was fair and even-handed with probationers when she worked for the Merced County Probation Department.

"She was a nice, sweethearted woman," Blake said. "She was well thought-of professionally. She just had a good heart."

Bob Souza, a member of the historical society board of directors, said Bultena was very dedicated to the courthouse museum.

"She always had good advice. She put her whole heart into the courthouse museum, was a nice lady and always kind to everybody," Souza said.

Jan Sorge, a longtime volunteer at St. Paul Lutheran Church, said Bultena could always be counted on to complete a task. Bultena was active in the church, chairman of the memorial committee and actively involved in Hmong outreach and fundraising efforts there, Sorge said.

Former school principal and county supervisor Kathleen Crookham was a longtime friend of Bultena's and said she was a quiet, unassuming woman.

"I thought she was amazing," Crookham said. "Her death is definitely a loss to Merced. Her thoughts and actions ran deep. I thought she was an extremely bright woman who cared very much for children and really had their future in mind."

Bultena helped her husband, a former deputy district attorney, begin law school in 1966. She worked with the county probation office periodically until 1994. She was an active member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, the American Association of University Women, Habitat for Humanity, Merced County Historical Society, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Lawyers Wives, the Merced Symphony League, Delta Zeta Sorority and the school facilities committee.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2916 McKee Road. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Merced County Historical Society or St. Paul Lutheran Church would be appreciated by the family.

Bultena is survived by her husband, David; a daughter, Diana Bultena Severson; a son, John Bultena, all of Merced; a brother, Michael Kramer of Anaheim; and two grandchildren.