Bonnie Nelson passed away on December 15, 2018, after a well-fought battle with cancer. She was 87 years old. Or, as Robert D. Smith likes to state it, she lived exactly 31,880 days.
The piece below was written for our company newsletter prior to the cancer’s final push, and shows how Bonnie chose to live her life in retirement. She celebrated her 20-year retirement anniversary this year and was happy with what she’d accomplished.
Bonnie Nelson – Back in the summer of 1963, Bonnie was visiting a cousin in Iowa City after she left her 14-year insurance job in Des Moines. She decided to visit the local employment office and they directed her to PSC. Gladys Nesmith and Dave Gause were on hand to interview Bonnie and they must have been impressed. According to Bonnie, she requested what she thought was way too much money, but they hired her anyway.
Shortly after being hired, Jim Nesmith came into the office asking “who’s the #51 car?!” and Bonnie thought it was already over. Apparently license plates had county numbers (not names) back then, and #51 was Jasper County. As a Jasper County native, JHN was just curious who may be visiting Johnson County (#50), so Bonnie could rest easy. In fact, after six weeks, JHN stopped at her desk, said he figured things were going to work out and gave her a raise.
In addition to the license plates, the physical space of PSC was quite a bit different back then. There were no offices, so writing of purchase orders and answering the phones (Bonnie’s primary duties) took place in the counter area. For the first six weeks, when Bonnie would venture into the warehouse, the guys would conspicuously clam up. Things eventually loosened up in the warehouse, but she was only the third female in the building after Gladys and Nora Lee Balmer.
After nearly 35 years with PSC, Bonnie retired in April of 1998, but continued to fill in part time for the next seven years. As we have heard from others in this cohort,she misses the people most of all and feels good about her time with the company.
The past 11 years have gone quickly and Bonnie has done a bit of traveling. Her trip to Scotland and England several years ago is a highlight and, ironically, her tour guide was a Wisconsin native. Small world! Bonnie also proved she’s a bit of a daredevil while on a cruise through the Panama Canal. You may not picture her zip-lining through a Costa Rican jungle, but Bonnie made it happen. She said it’s possible she was the oldest person doing it that day, but she’s not certain. Finally, to show she really isn’t afraid of heights, Bonnie recently rode a hot-air balloon over Pella. For those who have never gone,she says it’s peaceful to glide through the air, but it gets a little warm in the basket. Next up is a flight to Pittsburgh for her nephew’s wedding in October. On a plane, this time.
Thanks again to Bonnie for her service to the company and for taking time to relive some old memories.
Bonnie worked for our family business for 35 years and grew into much more than an employee for the company. After that long, it’s tough not to. Bonnie was a friend to the family and to many of the employees she worked with over the years. She will be missed. Rest In Peace, Bonnie.