Several hundred friends and relatives remembered Bonnie Jones Saturday at a very moving memorial service held on the lakeshore campus of Loyola University.
Jones, 65, was a dean at Roberto Clemente Community Academy High
School in the Humboldt Park neighborhood whom I'd known for 25 years
through her involvement in the Chicago Barn Dance Company. She
was slain Oct. 16, though her life and not the ghastly circumstances
of her death were the focus of the program in the auditorium of the Edward Crown Center for the
Her cousin, Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport,
delivered one of several speeches posted below.
DOT KENT (friend):
Welcome, all of you.
Welcome family, welcome neighbors, welcome Bonnies friends,
co-workers, students. And welcome to all those who have traveled here
to show their love and support to (her son) Rhys.
It is a cold wind blowing across Bonnie's beloved Lake Michigan today. Our hearts and bellies feel it. We can see its impact in one another's faces.
We gather to share that wind blowing through our hearts, and to shoulder one another's pain. And to find some warmth in the loving memories of happier days. Not as a celebration of Bonnie's life, though we are grateful for her life, but in the fresh mourning of our grief. To find strength in the memory of her strength, and to seek our way to the grace and beauty of her spirit in a world now without her physical being.
We have seen images of Bonnie, and tributes from the students of Clemente High School.
We will hear from Bonnie's beloved cousin Ron, and her close friends, and learn some things we didn't know before. We will see the words in (American Sign Language), thanks to Alana who will express them in the language of Bonnie's brother Peter and his wife Susan. We will hear the music that meant so much to her, and let it fill our hearts.
Bonnie's was a giving spirit and a creative one. She threw wonderful parties and was a most generous guest. No matter the size of her home or the limits of her oven, Bonnie spread a feast for her loved ones.
She fed our spirits too. Her thoughts were provoking and her insights keen. And she looked out for us.
We miss her badly. Like a trip north in springtime, we long to beat back time: to be back where we might lift her burdens, attend to her troubles, and be there again with her and for her.
But time carries us forward -- spring into summer, fall to winter. The wind of time blows through us, like a thread through beads, and we are carried along, regardless of our wishes.
I've been thinking of Bonnie's beads a lot lately. I see many of us are wearing them today. She put that touch of herself in those beaded earrings, and it may be that I pierced my ears just so I could get some.
They were simple, they were beautiful, they were delicate and finely made. And she thoroughly enjoyed the pleasure of sorting, choosing and binding them together.
Now I think of Bonnie's spirit as a thread that we wrap our love around. We are the beads, raveled together, bead upon bead, strengthened by the fiber of her being. and we are knit together by our common witnessing of her fortitude, grace, beauty, and generosity.
Now her thread is lost to us, and we have to find our way ahead, to gather ourselves, find ourselves and keep a hold of one another. And as life continues for her son and his family, we will smile for Bonnie and shed her tears of joy and sorrow.
RON RAPOPORT (cousin):
I want to thank everybody for coming. It means a very great deal to Bonnie's extended family to have so many of her friends and colleagues here today.
I was speaking with Rhys not long ago as plans were being made for this gathering and he said something that made me smile because of how true it was. And that was how much Bonnie would have enjoyed this. The very idea that so many of her friends and members of her family had come together to tell their favorite stories about her, to remember the good times they had with her and to tell her how much they loved her would have tickled her to no end.
Bonnie had great interlocking circles of family and friends, all of which are represented here today. So many of the teachers at Clemente High were her good friends, as were the members of her book club, her artist friends with whom she did her beadwork, her running friends with whom she prepared for marathons and of course the large barn dance community in the Chicago area that meant so much to her over the years and that has been so supportive of Rhys and (his wife) Christina and all of us in the last few weeks.
In all, there were hundreds of people who considered Bonnie a dear friend and to whom she returned the compliment.
One of the questions I have been asking myself lately is if I ever knew anybody who delighted in the presence of her family and friends more than Bonnie did; anybody who exulted with them more in their accomplishments, commiserated with them more in their frustrations and enjoyed so much simply being in their company.
The answer is no. It was this vast capacity for joy and friendship, I think, that made Bonnie so important to all of us. And one of the things I have come to realize in the last few weeks is how important we were to her--more important, perhaps, than any of us ever truly realized.
My aunt Yetta Goodman, who is here today from Tucson with her husband Ken, my uncle, and their daughters, my cousins, Debi, Karen and Wendy, and Karen's son, Noah, has told me of a Yiddish phrase that is sometimes exchanged upon saying goodbye: We should come together only in simchas--in celebration.
Unspoken in that remark is the implicit understanding that we will also come together in times of great sorrow and bewilderment, as we do today.
Certainly, this is the greatest gathering of Bonnie's extended family in many years--of Joneses, Wheelers, Postls and Rapoports, and some cousins I have never met. And again I can only think how much Bonnie would have enjoyed being a part of it.
Bonnie's beloved brother Peter is here with his wife, Susan, and their sons, Rickey and Robert. Peter and Susan's daughter-in-law, Renee, and their young grandchildren, Katarina, Daphine and Dawson, could not be with us but they all send their love.
I hope you will read Renee's funny story about Dawson and the missing apricots in Bonnie's house in the booklet of memories of Bonnie that so many of you have contributed to. And I hope you will read seven-year-old Katarina's expression of love for her great aunt, too.
Bonnie's uncle, Dan Rapoport, who is my father, is here from Muskegon, Michigan, along with my brother Roger, Bonnie's cousin, and his daughter Elizabeth, who is here from London. My sister Carla, Bonnie's cousin, also came from London with her daughters, Charlotte and Sarah. My wife, Joan, is here along with our daughters, Julie, who lives in California, and Rebecca, who is here from Massachusetts with her husband, Dean, and their daughter, our granddaughter, Allanna.
All of us, at one time or another, have spent happy weeks during the summers at a house on the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan where Bonnie's presence brightened all of our days as much as the July sun.
Rebecca has reminded me of the time two summers ago when we were on the deck of that house and Bonnie held Allanna, who was then only a few months old, on her lap and pronounced her the most beautiful baby in the world. Then, thinking of Rhys and Christina's wedding, which had taken place only a few weeks earlier, she grinned and said, "Second most beautiful baby in the world."
Rhys and Christina are also members of our family as are and Christina's mother, Jeanie, her father, Paul, and her brother, Evan, who are here with us today.
I am happy to tell you that the surgery on Rhys' injured hand and arm was successful and that he is working diligently on the physical therapy that doctors say will restore his career as one of the country's top folk fiddlers.
Christina will return to New York to finish her final year at Julliard, after which she will pursue her career as a concert violinist. All of us also want to extend our thanks to Rich and Lori Jaros, who have taken such good care of Rhys and Christina in recent weeks and who have been so helpful to all of us.
We are also grateful to those students and members of the faculty from Roberto Clemente High School who are with us today.
Bonnie used to tell us of her role as Clemente's Dean of Discipline whom so many of the students feared and disliked.
Knowing Bonnie as we did, and particularly her love for children, it often sounded as if she was talking about a different person, somebody we had never met. But Bonnie was the daughter of two public-school teachers and she knew what doing her job, what truly helping those kids, required of her.
Bonnie would have smiled at the reminiscences of a number of her former students who came to understand how she helped them to see the possibilities of what was waiting for them beyond the walls of Clemente if they applied to themselves to their education. Some of them became teachers themselves, which I know pleased Bonnie no end.
I hope you will all have a moment to look at the cards the Clemente students wrote and the posters they signed, which are displayed here today.
Bonnie would have loved to have read these and I can hear her
howling with laughter as she reads the one that says, "I'm sorry for
calling you a bitch." One letter on display here in the hallway, has
what would have been her response: "That's Mrs. Bitch, to
To her, this was a badge of honor, on a par with the witch's
costume she wore to the school on Halloween as if to say, "I know what
you think of me and I don't care. Now let's laugh about it."
I want to offer my thanks to those of you who contributed your own memories of Bonnie. There were more than 70 of you, and aside from their personal accounts of the time you spent with Bonnie, and the warm expressions of love they contain, you also told me some things about her--about how she meant so many things to so many people--that I never knew. I have told Rhys that I expect he may learn some things that are new to him, too.
One of these messages in particular moved me in ways that are hard for me to express. It came from a Clemente student and I have read it several dozen times now and I have not been able to finish it without weeping. I doubt this will be an exception.
These are the words of Samantha Castellanos, whom I hope to meet on a happier day, perhaps in a bookstore where she will be signing her first book of stories or poems, which I like to think she will dedicate to Bonnie:
Sitting in class, staring at the walls, thinking about you and I'm sorry. The times we shared were all for bad reasons. Now I'm sitting here wondering why. Are you watching me now? Do you see that someone actually cares about you, thinks about you, cries for you? You just wanted what was best for us. All you did was care. You will always be remembered in my heart. I'm praying to my angels that they get you to the gates of heaven gently and safe. I'm going to do better for you, Mrs. Jones. I'll prove to you that I am better. Everything that you ever said to me is still in there, never forgotten, just misplaced.
Thank you, Samantha. Thank all of you for being here with us today. Thank you, Bonnie.
KOLLEEN BLUME (friend):
I met Bonnie about 13 years ago at a barn dance. She became part of my extended family. Bonnie came to our family parties, birthdays, graduations, went trick or treating with my kids and me. My nieces and nephews were fascinated by her stories of Clemente students.
After Maggie, my youngest, was born she threw a shower for me. We both had babies that had died and she was superstitious about throwing the party before the birth.
Babies. Whenever there was one at a dance or a party Bonnie was like a magnet. She couldn't get enough. The same was true with children. She would encourage them constantly, telling them they were great at whatever they seemed to be doing.
She played the banjo and I played fiddle. We weren't good but it was fun because we knew the same baby tunes. One night we stayed up late at her apartment listening to tunes on her new iPod and trying to play along. We would do things like that.
Last summer we rode our bikes to Millennium Park and took off our shoes to run in the water. It was a blast to have a friend like her.
A few years ago Bonnie and I wanted to form a book group and I had a feeling some of my good friends would be interested. These were women I had bonded with while our children were babies. We were all moving in different directions. Some of us went back to college, some went to work. All of us were starting to go through the empty nest syndrome.
Well, Bonnie was always there with a listening ear. When we would talk about problems with our kids she would sometimes say "I seem to forget all of the bad things about the teenage years."
A few among us are teachers. When we would get together we would have to put a limit on how long to talk about Chicago Public schools.
Some of us were in the Barn Dance Community so we couldn't talk about that too long.
There was never a limit on bragging about our kids. We all seemed to do it and marveled in all of their adventures. All of us had some problems (who doesn't?) that we would listen to, give advice or suggestions.
Oh, I almost forgot, The Book Club aka Bookies, or Hot Plums (don't ask!). Every month one of us would host and pick the book. The last time we were to get together the book was "The Kite Runner."
Bonnie would buy her book because she said that she liked to mark it up and take notes. She also went a little further and did research about the subject matter and would find critiques of the book.
She would bring the notes that she got from the Internet. We did talk about the book and she was always prepared. Some of us didn't get a chance to read the book or we would come after the discussion and we would weave the book into our after-book talk. And talk, we did, sometimes until the wee hours of the next morning.
When Bonnie would host, we would arrive at her home and she would pass around a dish which held her beaded wine glass jewelry. She made the beads to fit around the stem of the glasses. Whatever the theme of the book, she would try and make the food match the story. We ate good food and drank well.
Chocolate was always a staple.
She loved books, from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter to Shakespeare, "Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood", "My Year of Meats," "The DaVinci Code," "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons," Zippy.
The last book wasn't a favorite of hers.
I can still see the expression on her face when she talked about the new Star Wars movie coming out. She couldn't wait to go and see it with her son, Rhys, because they had always gone together, that event was, as she described, a big part of his childhood.
This past summer Bonnie held the book club meeting at the beach. After that we tried to meet every Sunday. We all sat on the beach, would wade in the water and, drank wine, or frozen. daiquiris and everyone brought food to share.
She loved it and said she was living her dream. She said she had always wanted to live on the lakefront. Looking back, I can smile and say we had the summer of our lives. It was so great to get together with the girls. The feeling is more than I can express with words.
When we found out that Bonnie had passed away we looked at each
other and said, "What are we going to do without her?". She
really held us together and supported us through our struggles.
Although we will never be able to fill the emptiness caused by her absence, our memory of her and her zest for life will be an inspiration for us. She lived life to the fullest.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
And our memory of her will live on as in the words of Shakespeare:
When he shall die tke him and cut him in little stars And he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun.
She will be missed by all of us and hopefully, some day we will come to terms with this loss because as Emily Dickenson writes
The world is not a conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond,
Invisible, as music,
Thinking about how Bonnie had loved her mother so much, I found this quote by John Taylor comforting.
While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet her behind the veil.
Goodbye Bonnie. We love you.
ADRIANA RIVERA (colleague):
For years I saw Ms. Jones as a professional,serious, focused Dean who was determined to help her students through appropriate, yet very loving, discipline. Then one day, Ms. Trueheart and Ms. Ortman got us all together. We were of different cultures and different ages. We were Jewish,Christian, Scottish, Italian and Puerto Rican. Our ages ranged from 33 to 65. Who would have thought that we would be friends! I then saw Bonnie as a laid back, down-to-earth, dynamic, and compassionate friend who taught us a lot about life. For example, even though Ms. Trueheart and I aren't mothers yet, she showed us how much love mothers have for their children through her stories about her relationship with her son, Rhys. Bonnie has forever influenced our lives. We were all so different, yet so much alike.
MARTHA TRUEHEART (colleague):
While packing up Bonnie's personal belongings at Clemente High School last week, I came across an item that epitomized her personal and professional ethics.
It is the book she used to record student infractions observed while clearing the hallways. Bonnie never trusted her memory. Thus the book served as an
ingenious tool to help her keep the kids in line.
It is a unique item that has to be seen to be believed. Bonnie started with a composition book she had rescued from the trash after it was thrown out, barely used, by a student. To the front of this book she affixed a list of all of the divisions, or homerooms, for which she was responsible. The list included the names of the teacher and counselor attached to each division, as well as the number of the room in which it met.
Inside, she taped a pen on a chain like the pens you might find at the bank.
Bonnie never wanted to be without a pen to record the latest in student malfeasance. The true genius of the book, however, lay in the pocket she taped to the outside of its back cover. Inside this pocket rested her detention slips ready to be handed out to the unfortunate child who thought he or she was smarter than Mrs. Jones.
Every detention was given not with malice, but with love and the understanding that the students needed and, on some level wanted, her guidance.
A memorial was created by students outside Bonnie's office that Monday after she died. A significant part of the memorial was comprised of large sheets of paper posted to allow students and faculty to record their thoughts. During those first days I was not able to read what the students had written. The immediacy and genuineness of their words brought me to tears too quickly.
Today I was finally able to read them and noticed that a common theme ran through the writings.
The students knew and understood that Bonnie cared about them even when she was recording their exploit and handing out detentions.
The most heartfelt and wrenching words came from those students with whom she had the most frequent and unpleasant encounters. They knew that she was trying to help them to become better people as they navigated their way to adulthood.
I realize that this is Bonnie's greatest gift to all who work with teenagers. She never allowed the kids any slack and always challenged them to be better citizens. Bonnie treated the students with the utmost professionalism and integrity and served as a great example for us.
Ironically, I almost always called her "Mrs. Jones" during the six years of our friendship and professional relationship.
She always wanted me to call her Bonnie, but I told her I couldn't. It wasn't a matter of deference although she assumed I did it because of the difference in our ages. I merely thought of her as Mrs. Jones. Now that she is gone, however, I can think of her only as Bonnie and I cannot thank her enough for the enormous positive impact she had on my personal and professional life.
JOSE OROZCO (former student):
One of my favorite authors is Albert Camus because he
grapples with life's basic questions, questions I still wrestle with: what does
life mean and is it really worth living? After all his pessimistic talk, Camus
writes somewhere that "The point, after all, is to live." And bless Bonnie
Jones for doing just that.
For Camus, living is all about ethics. Gentle as a mouse, Bonnie Jones was a thoughtful, strong, and clever woman who loved
people--their company and their idiosyncrasies. In her living, she was highly
I see her in my smart, privileged woman friends whose concerns about
the world's suffering make me smile. There is a lot of ignorance and arrogance
in the world, but there are a lot of people like Bonnie. And I swear, it's
these people that keep me from losing hope. It's these people that make living
Bonnie was gentle even when she was mad. She once told me:
"Make yourself scarce." I didn't even know what it meant and there was nothing
in the way she said it to give me a clue. I was disappointed to find that it
meant to "get lost." I never figured out why Bonnie said that, but the way she
said it showed that even then she cared for me. It was a mild rebuke, a
complaint tempered by a kind heart. If anyone had a kind heart, it was Bonnie
Bonnie was a great mom. You could tell just by seeing the
way she treated my friends and I. Going to Clemente, I needed all the
encouragement I could get. When Bonnie wasn't telling us how clever we were,
she engaged us in intellectual discussion with the respect accorded to hot-shot
impressive in hindsight is the woman's naturalness. Nothing seemed fake.
Everything came from the heart. And if she wasn't feeling it, she'd kindly tell
you to "make yourself scarce."
Bonnie's life was an example as all ethical lives are. All
we can do is to emulate her, to try to be as good as she was, to make others
happy, to enjoy the gift of life, and work so others can better enjoy it.
I, for one, owe her a lot. It was a happy coincidence that
when I was looking for a small liberal arts college, she had a good one in
mind: her alma mater, Grinnell College. I graduated in English from Grinnell
like her and her son Rhys.
But that's the obvious debt; it goes much deeper. To
those gathered in honor of Bonnie Jones, thank you for being here and for
listening to my words.
If a book is a combination of other books and its author
an amalgam of other writers, then by the same token, all of us owe a great debt
to our family and friends for who we are.
As a person, I owe Bonnie Jones for
her example, and as a journalist, I owe her for helping me love words. I love
GINA CORTEZ (former student):
I met Bonnie nearly 11 years ago,
when she replaced a retiring English teacher. Oz, Jose and I tested her immediately. We staged an illiterate reading of Shakespeare hoping to elicit
exasperation or some other kind of judgment.
Bonnie didn't bite; she never would. In Bonnie, we had found a friend that shared our passions and frustrations.For this, she was easily
admitted into our inner circle and us hers. Bonnie didn't lecture, she talked and when we needed her to, she
We all struggled to exist at
Clemente, but whether it was a game of Boggle or Trivial Pursuit or just
conversation, Bonnie reminded us we were in an academic environment. Later, when she became a dean, we would
return the favor and be there to remind her.
Months passed and we began
socializing outside of school. We
observed Bonnie in her dance community and attended musical concerts in Grant
Park together. She was a terrific
storyteller, one of my favorites was inspired by Rhys' writing for Grinnell's
Bonnie was always eager to
talk of Rhys and his tremendous musical gifts and we were excited to meet
him. I still remember the adoration
that shone from her face when you came into our class to discuss Tennyson's
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Rhys, I remember how delighted she was that you had made your first tape
and how proudly she admitted, "my son used a word I didn’t know," after reading
one of your emails.
Your mom was
passionate about so much, Rhys….but nothing more than you.
My fondest high school experiences
were shared with Bonnie and our friends. She listened to the classical music tape you made her over and over,
Oz. She drove all over the Pilsen and
Little Village neighborhoods to find the murals you wanted her to see,
Bonnie was the incredible woman
who always knew when I needed that hug or backrub. No matter our differences, she made Oz, Jose and I feel special
and unique and I only pray we did the same for her.
About four months ago I finally thanked her for all that she was and
for our friendship. I wondered then and
now what you can say or do when your eternal gratitude isn't enough. I love you and miss you, Bonnie.
OZNI TORRES (former student):
I have been fortunate in my
life to have had the support and encouragement of teachers.
The first was my
fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Sylvia Lewitt. She set me on the path to academic
By the time I got to Mrs. Jones, Bonnie, it was time to get some help
figuring out the rest of who I am.
It is truly an act of beneficent providence
that Mrs. Jones, the substitute teacher, would take over my Sophomore English
class midyear, giving her the opportunity to become one of the greatest
influences in my life.
Through Mrs. Jones, I discovered and developed so many
of the interests that now make up the person before you, and for that I am
forever grateful to her.
My first recollections of
Mrs. Jones -- I could never bring myself to breech the teacher/student divide and
call her Bonnie -- are of her as substitute teacher. Forever a realist, she would
come armed with Boggle, ready to play with those who were interested and
letting the rest of the kids be.
It wasn't much different when she became my
English teacher. One knew immediately that she loved books and plays, and she
would encourage us all to read and explore the world of words, the world in
She didn't push however. She never felt that we should do
something, it was just a suggestion. She was never overbearing. I think that is
what attracted me to her, what allowed me to let this teacher in.
sensitive academic prima donna, I would never have been receptive to anything
else. She understood this implicitly. She understood this because she was an
astute observer of people and had fine instincts in dealing with individual
personalities. My friends were made of tougher stuff, so she wouldn't pull
punches with them, telling them exactly what she thought. I think she had a far
gentler hand when dealing with me. It made me trust her.
What made me love her was
that she realized my friends and I needed broader horizons, we needed to be
exposed to the world beyond our neighborhood.
She would cast many lines and wait
and see if any got a bite. I remember
that she always thought I was lying when I told her I didn't like to read. I
knew too many words, I spoke like a literate person. I would protest and give
feeble answers, but she never believed me.
That reaction made me question the
place of reading in my life, and no coincidence, I began reading books just for
pleasure shortly thereafter.
I told her I was going to become a veterinarian
because I loved animals and nature. She immediately used that, and sent me
books and told me stories about the beautiful natural world.
She also let me dote and fuss over the plants
in her office, deferring to me in matters of proper watering and sufficient
lighting. I had no clue, and she knew it, but encouragement has to start
But truly, the greatest gift
she gave me was the gift of music
. I grew up in Humboldt Park, not the most
likely place for a kid to fall in love with classical music, but there I was.
wanted to know everything about it, and listen to all of it. Naturally, Mrs.
Jones was there to guide me. We talked a lot about classical music, or rather,
she let me talk to her about classical music.
She took me to Grant Park
concerts and was so excited when my music education had finally reached opera.
After inquiring over some duet, she debated joyously whether to get that aria
or the whole opera.
She could be excited enough for the both of us. I realized
after a while though that I had been tricked. Sure Mrs. Jones liked classical
music, but only as much as any learned person does. I had become this total
classical music fanatic from a mentor who was only modestly interested. Oh,
It was with Mrs. Jones that I
first went downtown to a pub, at night. It was with Mrs. Jones that I first
went to Devon and saw all of India. It was with Mrs. Jones that I started to
become more than just some kid with A's on his report card.
Because of her, I
never looked back.
I left Roberto Clemente high school ready to be a vet, but
ending up being a teacher in a Chicago public school, interacting with and encouraging
kids just like me. I wonder why? Thank you ever so much Bonnie.
RENE ORTMAN (colleague)
I've know Bonnie for 10 years, but it has been in the last few years that we started to get together several times a month for "Off Site Meetings."
More often than not, these meetings took place at Bonnie's apartment and what she called "her" beach. We would have a few bottles of wine sandwiched between walks along the beach.
We would sit in her special room, a little alcove with candles lit and her little white "Christmas" lights, and talk about politics, and Rhys, philosophy, and Rhys, religion, and Rhys, relationships and Rhys.
All four of us being passionate about our jobs, we would always talk about work and somewhere before the end of the last bottle of wine we had solved all the problems of Clemente.
In our group, there were two counselors and a social worker, yet it was Bonnie, the disciplinarian, that always saw the good in people and could always think of something positive about a person.
The greatest gift that Bonnie gave me was that I always left her apartment feeling better about myself.
If you knew Bonnie and would like to add your own comments, I'm gathering them all here.