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Bonnie Jean (Neely) Johnson

Posted 2011-01-05 by Sharla
The Wickenburg Sun, Wickenburg, AZ
Wednesday, January 05, 2011

he heavenly orchestra has a new first chair violinist with the addition of Bonnie Jean Johnson, 90, who passed away peacefully in her sleep at her Wickenburg, Ariz., home on Christmas Eve. She now joins her husband of 69 years, Walter E. Johnson; a daughter, Wendy Dupont; and a sister, Doris Vidmar.

Bonnie was born August 25, 1920, to Glen and Stella Neely in Pittsburg, Pa. After living in the Pittsburg and then Mt. Lebanon area for a while, her family moved in 1932 to the Oak Park-River Forest, Ill., area where she spent the rest of her youth, enrolled at Rosary College in fashion design, and met and married Walter in 1941. After her husband completed World War II service with the Navy, the couple eventually ended up small-scale farming in Barrington, Ill., where they raised three children and registered Hereford cattle, later shifting to registered quarter horses as they moved to larger farms.

Although Bonnie was a stay-at-home mom while Walter commuted by train to work at the Society for Visual Education in Chicago, they were both very active as 4-H leaders and in their children’s school system. Once a ‘city girl’, Bonnie became skilled at canning and freezing, vegetable gardening, fruit picking, riding horses and caring for “critters.” She was already an excellent seamstress and created many of the outfits worn by her children. Bonnie was superb at mathematics, enjoyed bookkeeping, and always kept meticulous records of all of the family’s business and personal accounts.

Upon his retirement from SVE in 1974, Walter and Bonnie moved, along with their horse operation, to Wickenburg. At the same time, they opened the Wickenburg Gallery on Wickenburg Highway (now Wickenburg Way). The gallery, the first major gallery in the area, was operated for 11 years and featured western and wildlife artwork, pottery and sculptures, with Bonnie also offering framing services. They attended the Presbyterian Church in Wickenburg where they both sang in the choir.

Bonnie was also an accomplished violinist and played for a time in the former Wickenburg orchestra. The couple was very supportive of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum where Bonnie served as a docent and used her artistic expertise to design several of the displays.

She enjoyed tennis, later changing to golf, was a member of Rancho de los Caballeros, and was known for her enjoyment of coconut shrimp at the club’s restaurant. She was a life member of Los Damas (the women) riding club and was one of its oldest members. In 1998, the Johnsons moved into a villa on Lazy Fox Rd., and by that time had switched from horses to mules. Some of Bonnie’s spare moments were spent writing poetry, and many of her Christmas and occasion messages were created in rhyme.

Bonnie is survived by son Dr. Ronald A. Johnson, a veterinarian of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; daughter Joanna D. Cottrell (Steve), a speech and language pathologist of Springfield, Ill.; grandchildren Kurt Guemmer of Lincoln, Calif.; Rev. Scott (Jenny) Guemmer of Citrus Heights, Calif.; Kristi (Jermaine) Guemmer of Petaluma, Calif.; Noelle Dupont of Gilbert, Ariz.; and Jenny Czyz (Chris) of Coconut Creek, Fla.; great-grandchildren Matthew and Adam Guemmer, Ciara and Braden Czyz; brother Wayne Neely of Cincinnati, Ohio; sister Ruth (Edgar) Sturkey of Lake Barrington, Ill.; and a multitude of nieces and nephews.

A Celebration of Life service at the Presbyterian Church will be announced later. Donations of remembrance may be made to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum of Wickenburg.

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