Cyrena Nelson Wilson
Feb. 10, 1921-Aug. 10, 2023
Menlo Park, California
Cyrena N Wilson was born as Cyrena Nelson in Chicago, Illinois, on February 10, 1921, and died on August 10, 2023 in Menlo Park, California, at the exact age of 102 and six months. Her parents were Jesse Ward Nelson and Natalia Carson Nelson; she had an older sister, Jessie Ann, and a younger brother, Charles.
Cyrena grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and went to New Trier High School where she acted in plays and was editor of the yearbook. While in high school she traveled to Sweden with an ‘aunt’, visiting relatives. After high school, Cyrena attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she obtained her degree.
While a student, Cyrena worked as a seamstress in an haute couture designer's shop, advancing her passion for fabric and apparel design. She also worked as a crime reporter for the Chicago Daily News, consistent with her passion for social justice.
In 1944 after graduating, Cyrena married William Bonner in Glencoe, Illinois. They had four children: Randolph Nelson, Joseph Daniel, Jay Francis, and Teresa Ann. In 1946 the family of three moved to California where William joined the Organic Chemistry faculty at Stanford University. During his research sabbatical in 1952-53, the family, now five, lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and in Zürich, Switzerland where Cyrena had the great privilege of undergoing therapy with Marie-Louise von Franz, the renowned Jungian psychologist and scholar. Cyrena’s interest in psychology continued throughout her life. In 1955, Cyrena and William built a house in Portola Valley, where she began her long teaching career by teaching Creative Dance.
In 1961 Cyrena divorced, moved with her four children to nearby Ladera, and remarried Arthur Jeffery Wilson (Jeff), a plant safety engineer at Fairchild Semiconductors. They were the love of each other’s lives, and were inseparable to the end. Jeff had four children from his previous marriage: Mark, Andrea, Polly, and Glen. The marriage brought together all eight children into a dynamic blended family during school vacations, with loving relationships that have survived to the present.
Cyrena and Jeff obtained their teaching degrees and became elementary school teachers. She continued teaching, mostly K-1, in the Palo Alto school district for the decades until her retirement.
Cyrena shared Jeff’s love of sailing, taking their Santana 22 sloop, often with family and friends, on many memorable excursions around the Bay.
She was deeply artistic, excelling in multiple mediums, and during the second half of her long life Cyrena became an accomplished weaver. Always the model of the supportive spouse, Jeff turned his engineering skills to constructing sophisticated looms, and together they founded their business, Cyrefco, specializing in overhead beater countermarche floor looms and, later, in dobby retrofits which Cyrena utilized and demonstrated.
After retirement, Cyrena suffered an undiagnosed spontaneous spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia. This was a tremendous challenge. But she was a determined patient throughout her years of physical therapy and bore her disability with dignity and grace, maintaining remarkable strength and ability, exclusively using a manual wheelchair for three decades. Jeff passed away in 2010 and Cyrena lived out her remaining years in their house of long standing in Menlo Oaks. For her last 15 years, she was fortunate to be cared for by loving caregivers for whom she and her children were, and are, profoundly grateful.
Cyrena is survived by her four children, Nelson, Dwarka, Jay and Terra, by three of her stepchildren, Andrea Polly and Glen, and by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is loved and missed.