January 21, 2020

Bonnie J.L. (Thompson) DeMatio

Died July 15, 2019


Bonnie Jean Lucille (Thompson) DeMatio, 96, died peacefully at home in Edwards Township, Ogemaw County, on Monday, July 15, 2019.

Bonnie was born Nov. 4, 1922, the fifth of eight children of Joseph Ernest and Audrey (Gregg) Thompson. She developed her love of family, her work ethic and her thrift at the Thompson farm in Selkirk, where she also learned the arts of homemaking that she’d practice seemingly without tire throughout her life. Her parents, staunch Protestants, guided Bonnie and her siblings in their faith both at home and at nearby Churchill United Methodist Church. Bonnie’s childhood was marked by the hard work of a rural Depression-era household but also fun with siblings and playmates from the neighboring Marshall and Peters families in and around the Rifle River. When she was 3 or 4 years old, she and her brother Howard (Speed) found some matches on their father’s bureau and decided to play with them in the barn. The resulting fire destroyed the barn but there were no casualties. As were many young men and women during the war, Bonnie was recruited to harvest milkweed pods for use in life vests and parachutes for the men in service. An important memory of Bonnie’s was being selected to the court of the famous West Branch Trout Festival in 1938.

After graduating from West Branch High School in 1940, Bonnie enrolled in County Normal for teacher training and taught at the Neal and Red Schools. A young man from the other side of the county who was also a part of the rural teaching corps, Robert John DeMatio, came courting. On June 12, 1942, at a military chapel in Columbia, S.C., the two were wed. Bonnie converted to Catholicism, a rather big deal at the time. In December 1943, Bonnie gave birth to the first of their nine children, Nancy Jeanne, just a couple months before Bob shipped overseas with the U.S. Army. Bonnie, like millions of other women at the time, was a wartime bride and anxious young mother, waiting for letters from “Somewhere in Europe.”

Bob returned to the States in fall 1945 and by summer 1946, the young couple had purchased an 80-acre farm in Edwards Township and settled into the life of a young postwar family. With the exception of the 1948-49 school year, when they moved to Mount Pleasant while Bob completed his studies at Central Michigan University, Bonnie lived in the old farmhouse at the corner of Stillwagon and Greenwood roads for the rest of her life, 73 eventful and joyous years. These were busy times as they developed the farm. Bob taught full-time at West Branch High School, and Bonnie gave birth to child number two, Gregory Vincent, in June 1948.

The babies kept coming: Michael Robert in August 1950, Ann Louise in February 1953, Mark Steven in March 1955, David Joseph in March 1957 and Patricia Sue in September 1958. Bonnie ran the household and raised their growing family with efficiency, thrift and kindness. Nieces and nephews from the city still fondly recall their visits to Uncle Bob and Aunt Bonnie’s farm and homestead during these years. As the 1950s drew to a close, Bonnie and Bob took satisfaction in the lives they’d built for themselves and their seven children, centered on home, farm and St. Joseph Catholic Church and School.

They weren’t done. Brian Andrew arrived in February 1964, and child number nine, Joseph Ernest, in October 1965. Bonnie continued to juggle child care, homemaking and farm chores with grace. There were many good times, and some unhappy ones. On July 4, 1967, the family suffered the devastating loss of 14-year-old Ann Louise, who was killed in a bicycle accident.

After sending her last child off to school in 1970, Bonnie took a job outside the home for the first time, as a clerk at West Branch Jewelry on Houghton Avenue. During more than a decade managing the store, she engraved many charm bracelets, Zippo lighters and other trinkets and helped countless couples choose their wedding engagement rings. Bonnie really enjoyed her time at the store and meeting and serving so many members of the community. We remember her getting ready for work each morning in her polyester pant suits, or “separates,” as she called them, spraying a cloud of AquaNet hairspray and dabbing her wrists with Estee Lauder Youth Dew before setting off for town in her Chrysler Newport.

Bonnie possessed the gift of putting anyone at ease. People just naturally liked her. Search Ogemaw County high and low and you are unlikely to find anyone who has a bad thing to say about her. If she had negative thoughts or opinions about another person, whether a family member, a member of the local community or even a national politician, she was pretty much incapable of verbalizing them. More commonly, she would express concern that someone was “having a hard time of it” or make some other comment that was sympathetic rather than judgmental.

In June 1978, Bob died after years of heart problems, leaving a grieving Bonnie as a 55-year-old widow with two kids still to get through high school. As she had done through all of life’s adversities, she persevered, relying on her faith and her love of family to see her through. Bonnie settled into the 1980s and 1990s as a popular mother-in-law, grandmother and babysitter. Farming, in the past a vocation, now became a satisfying hobby, and another generation of family and friends came to know her as the kindly lady on the corner who could show you how to feed a lamb from a bottle or collect eggs. Kind, gentle and compassionate, Bonnie could also be tough on anyone or any creature who threatened her brood. One time when she was well into her 80s, she used a shovel to dispatch a possum that had been attacking chickens in her barn.

Bonnie continued caring for livestock, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren into her later years. In her 80s, she could be seen driving her Buick to church each Sunday or chauffeuring her group of lady friends to senior dances on Friday nights. For years, she faithfully visited her sister Alice Thompson in the local nursing home, and later, her sister-in-law Joan Thompson.

Bonnie was preceded in death by her parents; siblings, Wendell (Joan Wangler) Thompson, Ernest (Alice Selesky) Thompson, Alice W. Thompson, Howard (Jean Lally) Thompson, Lois (Evan Crow) and Robert (Phyllis Meiser); husband, Robert; daughter, Ann Louise; grandson, Matthew DeMatio; and son-in-law, Keith Carden.

She is survived by her sister, Gladys Kovich of Houston, Texas; children, Nancy J. Carden of Anaheim Hills, Calif., Gregory (Patti), Michael, Mark (Rose) and Dave (Jennifer) DeMatio, all of West Branch, Patricia (Bob) VanderLyn of Stonewall, Texas, Brian of Alger and Joseph (Alan Johnson) of Dexter; in-laws, Tonia DeMatio, Wendy DeMatio and Mark Scally; 13 grandchildren; and many great-grandchildren.

The family would like to acknowledge and thank those people who, in Bonnie’s later years, were drawn to her good nature and loved and cared for her like she had loved and cared for so many, particularly Amey Moeggenborg of Evergreen Clinic, Becky Scott, Carole Dillon, Donna Vest, Mona White, Deb Cramer, Julie Globke, Rose Nelson and Father Emmanuel Finbarr. Also the many nurses from Compassus Hospice who tended to Bonnie in her final weeks.

Donations in memory of Bonnie Jean DeMatio may be made to St. Joseph Elementary School Scholarships, West Branch, or the Ogemaw County Humane Society.

Visitation at Steuernol & McLaren Funeral Home in West Branch will begin Thursday, July 18, 2019, from 2-9 p.m. with a rosary at 3 p.m. and Scripture service at 6 p.m. The funeral Mass will be at the St. Joseph Catholic Church on Friday, July 19, at 1:30 p.m. with visitation starting at 12:30 p.m. Father Emmanuel Finbarr will officiate. Burial will follow at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery.

Online condolences can be shared at www.steuernolmclaren.com.


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