A beautiful reunion took place on November 23, 2019. Bonnie Ann Jones joined her husband and best friend Jack, who had passed two months earlier and was waiting in heaven with a huge smile and wide open door. She was 86 years old, and true to the magical bond they shared, joined him on the evening of his 89th birthday.
Bonnie was born on June 22nd, 1933 in East Helena, the youngest of four children born to John and Helen Petek. She attended St. Ann’s grade school and Helena Cathedral High School. She then was trained as a dental assistant in Chicago and returned to Helena to work with Dr. Radley at Helena Dentistry.
In 1954, a handsome young man from Oklahoma came into the dental office with a serious toothache. During the visit, he became more interested in the bright and charming dental assistant than in the repair of his tooth -- and a lifelong romance began. On January 23rd, 1955, she married George “Jack” Jones at St. Cyril and Methodius and thus began an incredible, shared journey that would continue until their deaths.
Bonnie and Jack were blessed with seven children. It started with four boys, George (Mary), Walt (Cindy), John and Lindy (Colleen) followed by three girls, Mary (Troy) Smith, Anna (Steve) Thennis and Katherine – the latter who died at birth. “Bonnie and Jack” were the parents everyone admired, and they completely dedicated their lives to their faith and family. Every night, Bonnie would shoo the kids outside (except for the designated Kool-Aid maker) and then welcome them back in with a warm, perfectly cooked meal. Sundays were for going to Mass and then to Lucky’s Fountain for penny candy. As the kids grew older, the back yard looked more like a baseball field, and her precious flowers and garden would take a beating. Growing up on Groschell Street in East Helena, they were surrounded by kind, adventurous and caring neighbors who continue to be lifelong friends. In addition to their own six children, there was always a welcome mat for family and friends, the kids’ schoolmates, and any and all stray animals (unless they required a saddle).
Bonnie and Jack not only cared for their children but also for Grandpa John Petek after his stroke and for Helen Petek as she failed and entered her 90s. Their love for each other, for their children and for all people, although not flashy, was something much better – constant, unconditional, accepting, and forgiving.
Beginning in the early 1980s, grandchildren made their way into their lives. Mom and Dad became “Papa Jack” and “Grandma Bonnie” and they soon ran out of Christmas stockings for all of the grandchildren: Judy Ann, Nicole, Kristin, Mark, Megan, Katherine, John, Matthew, Liam, Abby, Clancy, Bonnie , Mollee, Micah, Rosie, Ryan, Elizabeth, Derrick, Colby, Savannah, Jackson, Maria and Andrew. Many of the grandkids now have started their own families and added 9 great grandchildren to the legacy of Jack and Bonz: Jackson, Addy, Azlynn, Koa, Samuel, Willa, Benjamin, Jack Patrick and Owen.
In the last few years, Bonnie suffered from Parkinson’s disease, but put up an amazing fight, and even graduated from her first round of Hospice in 2017. Jack never left her side, and through her suffering her gratitude, sense of humor and grace were nothing short of heroic. She was carried by the love and consistent care of others, especially her “Sunshine Angel” grandchildren – and, textbook to the structure and beauty of Hospice assisted care, the love, faith and inspiration worked both ways. Even in the darkest hours, there was always a positive and appreciative light in her eyes. To witness and participate in her grace and strength was and is a gift that is beyond words.
There are so many people that were part of their lives. Jack and Bonnie’s dying wish, true to their grateful spirits, was to thank the incredible people who supported them in their final years. When they asked to prepare their obituaries in the summer of 2019, we could never get past the four page “thank you” list in one session.
They felt incredibly blessed for the support of the entire St. Peter’s Hospice team and the attention and prayers of Angie, who cared for both of them. Also, as a special ending, our cousin Cathy Beard helped Mom and family pull through the final month and days – and best of all, kept a smile on Mom’s face. Mom and Dad’s greatest fear was to end their journey away from home, and because of Hospice services and people including Father Tom O’Donnell and our neighbor/nurse practitioner, Kathleen Hunthausen, they both passed in the comfort of the home and life they treasured. Until they very end, they remained the same two people who had fallen in love over 60 years before, and they maintained their dignity, good spirits and grace.
Death is never just for the dying. Bonnie and Jack are at peace, in their togetherness and their communion with God. We are all the better for their life and for their peaceful deaths which point us all to the greater horizons of love, faith and kindness that marked each and every day of their lives.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St. Pete’s Hospice Services, Helena Food Share, or St. Ann’s Cemetery – but most importantly, Mom and Dad asked all friends and family to undertake a small act of kindness or service to others in their memory.
A vigil will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon on Monday, Dec. 2, at SS Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church 120 W. Riggs in East Helena. Burial will follow the Mass at St. Ann’s Cemetery. A reception will follow the graveside service in the fellowship hall of the church. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Bonnie.