Bonita Grace Colony (née Burroughs) was born on October 11, 1933 to Don F. and Grace May Burroughs in the family home near Platteville, Wisconsin. The town’s doctor was not present for the birth, as he was certain that Bonita was not yet ready to arrive. Bonita (often Bonnie with friends) passed away peacefully on July 13, 2022 in Salem, Oregon after a short illness. Her children were present, hoping Bonita wasn’t ready to leave just yet. When Bonita was a young child, her father, mother, and brothers Dean and Dwight moved to a hillside orchard high above Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Although her father was a “kids don’t talk until spoken to” person, Bonita recalls having a lot of fun in her early years. She recounted how she had ridden Ladd, the farm’s draft horse, bareback (trying not to let him scrape her with low-hanging branches), fended off her belligerent banty rooster, and rode down the steep hill on Dwight’s back to chase school s bike. Her father died when Bonita was 9 years old, and she and her mother moved to the city while her brothers transitioned into adulthood. The closest mother-daughter bonds developed as they forged their new life together, culminating in Bonita’s graduation from Coeur d’Alene High School and years of junior college. Bonita received her bachelor’s degree in teaching from Eastern Washington University. Making music came easily to Bonita and in great variety. At the age of four she sat at the VFW piano and played by ear. Her father was so proud that somehow he was able to buy her a piano. She enjoyed playing piano for the ballet studio, glockenspiel in the Coeur d’Alene High School band, double bass in the orchestra (possibly because she was the tallest kid in her class), accordion and even the ukulele. It may have been her ukulele skills that first drew her husband-to-be, Lee Colony, to the edge of the fireplace on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Whatever brought them together, they were inseparable and married a year and a day after their first date. Lee enthusiastically campaigned for the newlyweds to have a homestead in Alaska. Bonita countered that she wasn’t willing to leave her washer or dryer or electricity behind. No running hot and cold water? No power? No dice! Instead, they made their way to North Liberty, Iowa, near Lee’s childhood home. They began the arduous task of raising three children: Elaine, Wayne, and Gail. Bonita taught elementary school in Coralville and then at Penn Elementary in North Liberty. While Lee was recovering from an accident on the farm, Bonita suggested that he take this opportunity to go hunting with his brother in Alaska. She felt certain this would help “get Alaska out of its system.” That tactic backfired when Lee returned from his Alaskan adventure and proclaimed, “We’re moving!” And they did. Life in Alaska has been a source of deep joy, adventure and love for the wilderness for Bonita and Lee. As Bonita liked to say, “Anchorage isn’t really Alaska, but you can go to Alaska on the weekends.” Almost every available weekend, the family explored, making their way south to soak up the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula . or head north to discover the many wonders of the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. Whether it’s stream fishing, river boating, snow blowing, hunting, panning for gold, backpacking, camping or just traversing the miles, Bonita was excited to see what might be just around the next bend. This love of the wild led them to buy land off the beaten path, build a cabin and name the place Broken Birch Ranch. Bonita often laughed that as a young woman she wasn’t ready to give up her modern conveniences, but now in her forties she slept on the floor, dug an outhouse, felled trees, cooked over an open fire and built an off -the-house -network retreat. Life couldn’t have been better. Between the weekends there was meaningful work. Bonita has deeply touched the lives of countless students at Mountain View Elementary and eventually throughout the Anchorage School District. Some of Bonita’s most outstanding students stayed in touch throughout their lives, and it was their unfolding life that brought her the greatest joy. Her career path took her to become an ASD reading specialist, then a Slingerland teacher focused on teaching students with dyslexia, and finally a master’s degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage. When their children left home, Bonita and Lee moved to Glennallen to be closer to Alaska. She spent her final years teaching public education at the Copper River School District. The culmination of Bonita’s life’s work came when she became dean of the Slingerland Institute and later founding member and first president of IMSLEC (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council). In these roles, she taught and worked with colleagues in the US, Australia and the Philippines. Lee joined them on many of these trips, making caravanning across Australia a treasured adventure. When Lee unexpectedly died, Bonita moved to Salem, Oregon to be closer to her daughters Elaine and Gail and granddaughter Miranda. A gift of two flying hours was a glimmer of light in the darkness of Bonita’s deep sorrow. She began learning to fly, joined the Valley Flyers Club and bought a high performance Beechcraft. Bonita loved aviation and the freedom it gave her to explore the skies of Northwest and Western Canada, as well as the many delightful friends she made in the flying community. Bonita leaves behind: her three children and their spouses – Elaine and Mike Crawley, Wayne and Cindy Colony, and Gail and Art Obendorf; her granddaughter – Miranda and Jesse Featherstone and great-granddaughter Lydia Rain Featherstone (assistant); brother and sister-in-law Joe and Peggy Colony; nieces: Lynn (Glenn) Hubert; Jan (Paul) Colony; Rebecca (Ron) Hacker, Marci Mills; Nephews: Marc Gatchett, David (Valerie) Colony, Mike (Sherry) Colony, Patrick (Karen) Colony and Jim (Jannie) Boynton. Bonita preceded in death her husband and best friend Lee Colony, parents Don and Grace Burroughs, brothers Dean and Dwight Burroughs, and sister Janice Burroughs. Friends and family will gather for a memorial service on Friday, August 5 at 1:30 p.m. at Relevant Life Church (South Campus), 1090 Fairview Ave SE, Salem, Oregon. In the summer of 2023, family and friends will gather again for a celebration, but this time in Alaska and for the burial of Bonita’s ashes next to Lee’s in Talkeetna Cemetery. They’re both together now, exploring what lies “Just Around the Bend”.
Published by The Gazette on July 24, 2022.