Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Tribute to a Friend

Last week a wonderful woman passed away. Bonnie Spencer was such a great lady. Her loss in this community is immense to so many. If you knew her, you loved, appreciated, and admired her. If you didn't know her, let me tell you a bit about her.

Bonnie was born in 1944. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, all the things a lot of us get to be. She had a long and strong marriage to her beloved husband, Richard. Together, they had two amazing daughters, who married terrific men, and the family grew to include four delightful grandchildren, who were the apple of Bonnie's eye. She was so proud of all of them, and rightfully, so. It is a great family.

Bonnie taught school for many years, inspiring and loving many students over her career. How lucky they were to have her as their teacher.

Bonnie retired from teaching and took on the role of caregiver to elderly relatives and then the young ones as they came along. She taught them the joy of reading, the wonder of the physical world, and a love for travel. She provided a firm foundation for her grands, that will serve them well going forward. The world is a better place because Bonnie was here.

She loved to read and had a voracious appetite for books. Gardening was a special love and she was really good at it. Cooking and entertaining folks in her home was never a chore, but a joy, and if you were invited, you were so excited to go to see what special treats she had planned, both food and activities.

Bonnie loved Christmas. She had a fully-decorated, themed Christmas tree in EVERY room in her home, including the bathrooms. Being invited to see her home decked out for Christmas was such a treat--I didn't want to do what she did, but I sure loved seeing the sparkle in her eye as she shared her excitement and love for the holiday with many friends.

Bonnie was a quilter. She served as President of the Heritage Quilters of Huntsville, from 1997-98. She served with me on many quilt show committees, always so willing to decorate for a special exhibit in creative ways only she could dream up. She was a joy to be around.

She built a cabin, all by herself, learning all she needed to know from books. It had no plumbing, but it has everything else you need. She called it the "Quilting, Poetry, and Pout House". The original "She Shed", the first "Tiny House". How amazing and awe-inspiring she was--to  think she could build a cabin and then do it. I looked forward to Fall visits there on their property to see it and dream of how lovely it would be to spend quiet days reading and stitching there. It was perfect.

Many years ago I wrote Bonnie a letter. Over the years she told me from time to time that it was a special letter and she kept it. Two months ago she called to tell me her battle with cancer would soon be over and she was "putting her affairs in order". She asked me to do her one last favor, to read that letter at her Memorial Service. Yes, of course, I would, but how would I be able to get through it, in the grief that would accompany her passing? She said, "Barbara, you can do this, I know you can".

That day came this past week. In my mind, I  had written a note. Instead, her daughter sent me the two page, typewritten letter. For three days I practiced reading it out loud until I could do it without breaking down. I thought I was ready.

Then I walked in the funeral home and saw this, all the pews covered with Bonnie's quilts:

The newspaper article about the Cabin
When it was time for me to speak, I pictured Bonnie holding my hand, saying "You can do this". My voice cracked a bit, the raw emotion just at the surface. But at least I didn't breakdown in sobs and the ugly cry.

The service was wonderful, a true celebration of Bonnie's life and all she meant to so many. She would have loved it.

I leave you with the closing paragraph in my letter to Bonnie, from October 6, 1997:

Now, let's quilt.



  1. So sorry to hear of Bonnie's passing. The quilts on the church pews were a truly special touch to her service. So glad that you were able to read her letter. Prayers for her family and for you as well.

  2. My deepest condolences in losing your friend. You were both blessed being in each other’s life.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friendship.

  4. What a touching memorial to a wonderful woman! In the words of Bonnie Spencer, "Keep Calm and Quilt On" :)

  5. Absolutely beautiful words and from your heart and dedication of a wonderful loveing friendship.


  6. So sorry for your loss. Your column today was such a lovely tribute to your friend. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Beautiful all the way around.

  8. How wonderful to have friendships that will last forever in in your heart. thank you for sharing this in addition to your influence on your us your readers.

  9. My heart goes out to you and Bonnie's family.

  10. My tears are freely flowing again reading this lovely tribute. She definitely left the world a better place. I know my world will never be the same without her. I am the luckiest person in the world to be her daughter. Thank you Barbara for writing this. Also, thank you for doing such a wonderful job reading your letter at the service.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to a special friend. She sounds wonderful indeed!

  12. A lovely tribute to your friend. She sounds like an amazing woman!
    I really love the quilts over the bench backs!

  13. I'm sorry to hear of the passing of your friend, Bonnie. I send you my sympathies. What a nice honor to be part of her memorial. The church display is incredible.
    She sounds like an incredible woman! I love the idea of her building her little house.
    I also have a great love for Holiday Decorating and now I wish I could have seen her home decked out.
    You'll have wonderful memories of her as you go forward without her.
    Lovely Tribute Post