Black History Month 2013: Bonnie Sanders

19 Feb

Michael & Bonnie June 2008This particular tribute is especially difficult for me to write and I only hope I can do Bonnie justice.  Bonnie and I were friends for nearly a quarter of a century.  She would have been 61 years old today, but sadly we lost her all too soon.  Bonnie was born and raised in Akron, Ohio.  She lived the last part of her life in Atlanta, Georgia. Just by the way Bonnie lived her life, she was an exemplar of social justice.

Although she could present a gruff exterior — and we all know she did not suffer fools lightly — she had a heart that embraced all marginalized voices. From the nine turtles she saved and adopted, the many dogs and cats she rescued, to standing in solidarity with the LGBT community and with the aging community, her dedication to civil rights and women’s rights was unparalleled.  Bonnie walked in every AIDS Walk Atlanta since the very beginning. Bonnie’s voice will be sorely missed.

Bonnie was the boss of all of us and inspired everyone to be their best person, although I have to admit she did have a devilish way of making me act out.  Although she was chronologically older than I, she referred to me as her Granny.  Probably because I would just hold her hand, fix meals for her, and fuss at her if she did not go in for her mammogram.  To be honest, she also called me Granny because I can’t stay up past 9:00.

Our traditional New Year’s Eve extravaganza would usually start at 4 and Bonnie, Joanie,  and I would be asleep by 8:00.  Our friends who knew us well knew you had to leave by 8:00 because we would be asleep.  I did wake up at midnight and would wake up Bonnie and Joanie for a quick toast to the New Year and then back to sleep.

I was in my early 20s when I met Bonnie and was immediately in love with her — with her contagious laugh, her irreverent sense of humor.  Over the years we built a life together and have a shared history.  Bonnie knew I was gay before I did, as she was wont to remind me of often.  Bonnie is one of the reasons why I married my wonderful husband, for Robert had to get her approval.

The pain of losing someone so close is at times unbearable; there are times throughout the day that I feel as if I’m choking, or I break into tears.  Other times something funny will happen and my immediate reaction is to want to call Bonnie.  Right now it feels as though a huge part of myself has been ripped out and I cannot retrieve it.  I desperately try to just be grateful Bonnie was a part of my life for so long.  I know she lives forever in our collective laughter and acting out.

A heart is not judged by how much it loves, but by how much it is loved by others; it is obvious how Bonnie’s heart embraced the world and I am all the better for just having been connected to her.  Her light and wonder were contagious and should be shared!

For those that knew Bonnie, please, I invite you to share a funny story that shines as an example of how witty and irreverent she was.

I love you, Bonnie.



22 Responses to “Black History Month 2013: Bonnie Sanders”

  1. Central Oregon Coast NOW February 19, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    I share your pain Michael, as you go through these early days since Bonnie’s death. I few years ago I lost my closest friend who I had known since we were 13 to cancer, and know all too well the sudden tears you shed during the day, and especially the desire to call and share something with Bonnie. You made a wonderful tribute to an “ordinary” person, who, in fact, was not ordinary. Nancy

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Thank you, dear heart! Your love and compassion always mean the world to me, especially right now. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend a few years ago.

  2. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Michael mentions that I needed to get Bonnie’s stamp of approval (which was very true) but neglects to provide the context. I was invited to a dinner party with Bonnie and Joanie. To test my mettle, they brought their macaw and cockatiel (respectively). It made for an interesting, oddly delightful night. I got a glimpse of Bonnie’s fierce loyalty and her passion for her animals. I was truly lucky to have her as part of my life for nearly 14 years. Happy Birthday, Bonnie. I hope you remembered to take your boots.

  3. Lori Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    What a wonderful tribute! She was amazing!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      I hope she is having a wonderful birthday as she looks down at us all and fusses that we should not be crying.

  4. Ruth Inniss February 19, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    I would like to contact Michael Hulshof-Schmidt, I am a publicist, my client recording artist has a new release SOMETHING GOOD, which charted on #40, #35 Hot New Releases, beating out Josh Gorban. This is her firest cd release in 20 years only because she has been performing all over the world, just returning from the UK where she did over 10 Shows. Hopefully there will be an interest to do an Interview/Phoner, I can be reached at (212) 234-3281, looking forward to hearing from you. Ruth G. Inniss, Publicity & Consulting, Inc. Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 14:07:07 +0000 To:

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 7:40 am #


      I am quite honored. What is the best time to call you?

      Warm regards,

  5. dykewriter February 19, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Reblogged this on dyke writer.

  6. Debbie Mix February 19, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Happy birthday, Bonnie. I never think of you without smiling.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      It will be difficult to watch Mommy Dearest without Bonnie doing her Joan Crawford imitations.

  7. dcelestine38289 February 19, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    What a wonderful and thoughtful tribute to Auntie Bonnie! You knew exactly what to say to describe her in each and every way granny!!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      I’m so grateful to have you in my life and that we all have Bonnie living through us!
      Great Granny

  8. villagerambler February 19, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    So sorry for your loss, Michael. What a wonderful person Bonnie sounds, I’m glad you had that time with her and I’m sure she is still watching over you. It is a privilege to read such a personal tribute. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Thank you for your kind comments. Bonnie made the world a better place and now it is our charge to do the same.

  9. Bob Gruber February 20, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Michael, this is a wonderful tribute. I can still hear Bonnie’s laughter through your voice. The times Christopher and I were able to get together with Bonnie were few but always a blast. I remember our picnic before you moved to Oregon. We all watched Mommy Dearest at Piedmont Park in the sweltering heat and joked that we would replace you because you were leaving. That never happened and I am very happy that you are still in my life. I even laugh about the New Year’s Eve that you all deserted me at 8:00 pm as usual and I had to spend the next 4 hours alone with a crazy person. Note, I will never let you forget that one.

    After you moved, we could never get together as a group without you because it was like a piece of the puzzle was missing and it would have been like cheating on you. Not everyone gets to have a friendship like you had with Bonnie. It is a testament to both of you. She will always be with you and I know you made her proud. You have been in my thoughts a lot and I want you to know that I love you. Please take care of yourself.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 20, 2013 at 7:40 am #

      You have done an amazing job of perfectly capturing Bonnie’s spirit, her wit, and her playfulness. I also have to thank you for helping to document our history together–what a lovely gift!

  10. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Thank you for reblogging this, Nancy.

  11. eva February 19, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Oh Michael, that wa beautiful! Hugs and Love!

  12. eva February 19, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    was, yeesh

  13. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 19, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    You so would have loved Bonnie.


  1. Black History Month 2013: Bonnie Sanders « The Solipsistic Me « Central Oregon Coast NOW - February 19, 2013

    […] Black History Month 2013: Bonnie Sanders « The Solipsistic Me. […]

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