Lionel Bourdens, a Santa Rosa native and lifelong resident who saw a city grow up around him, died Wednesday at his home after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 79.
Bourdens lived on West College Avenue and worked on his grandfather's prune ranch as a teenager, during a time in which hops grew in a neighboring field and agriculture was still dominant.
"He didn't like the increased traffic, he lamented seeing it go from agriculture to the subdivisions and the sprawl, but he found it pretty easy to hop in the car and head out River Road to the coast or to the Russian River Area," said his son, Dean Bourdens of San Jose. "He enjoyed Wine Country and keeping it somewhat rural. I don't recall him bemoaning the changes."
Bourdens suffered from polio as a child, but with treatment he was able to lead an active life, although it left him somewhat shy until later in his life, his son said.
"He had a ton of friends, did a lot with those friends, he had an engaging and outgoing personality," Dean Bourdens said.
He was married to his wife, Gloria, for 57 years.
He worked briefly for the state Department of Forestry and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and spent for 30 years installing equipment for Western Electric, a division of AT&T.
He was a member of the Lafayette French Club of Santa Rosa, the Eagles Lodge in Healdsburg, Vine Hill Druids and the Bodega Social Club and had served as treasurer for the Sons of Bell Retirement Club.
He retired at age 51, lived in the house his grandparents had on West College Avenue, made annual trips to Mexico and also traveled to England, France and Spain.
"He loved Sonoma County and even though he traveled after he retired, traveled the world, he always loved Sonoma County," his son said.