A Tribute to Bonni Miller

by Brent Frankenhoff

Executive Director, Jensen Community Center

Pictures of the notoriously camera-shy Bonni are rare, but this one, provided by her mother, Dorothy, captures much of Bonni’s essence as she had her favorite chicken perched on her shoulder.

We lost a unique voice in our community on July 27 when Bonni Miller lost her battle with cancer.
As editor and publisher of the Jensen Community Spirit for more than four years, Bonni built on the legacy established by Randy Clausen and Steve Ellingboe, adding recipes, nature stories, and an intriguing mix of writers.
In her first editorial, in the April 2016 Spirit, Bonni wrote, “I promise to give you absolutely everything I’ve got to celebrate this beautiful, friendly, community and the people who work to make it so wonderful.” That’s a promise she kept right to the end.
Bonni was born in Marshfield but grew up in Scandinavia, where her mother, Dorothy, taught middle- and high-school music at the nearby Iola-Scandinavia Schools. Her local connections grew and developed throughout her life and definitely influenced her writing.
Bonni’s love of nature was evident in her fondness for gardening, raising her own chickens and rabbits and other animals, and her advocacy for various local farm groups.
Among her dreams were to purchase 20 or more acres of land in the country, build her own energy-efficient self-sustaining home, and enjoy the bucolic life. Alas, that was not to be.
I knew and worked with Bonni (off and on) for nearly 30 years, starting at Krause Publications where we worked in the same editorial division, and ending up, strangely enough, as her last supervisor (boss is definitely not a word I would apply to our working arrangement). I owe at least a part of my own career at the Jensen Center to her, as she was one of the people who recommended me for the position of office assistant back in September of 2016.
Each month, we would exchange numerous emails about both editorial and advertising matters. In October of 2019, she let me know that she was having health issues but asked that I keep it to myself.
Once she was diagnosed with cancer and began treatments in January, the outpouring of support from friends, both near and far, was amazing. At one point, she remarked that her doctor had asked if she had any friends to help out, and she told him, “Friends? I’ve got an army!”
On July 24, I received an email from her letting me know she was hospitalized and wouldn’t be able to produce the August Spirit, asking me to take up the reins. She made sure that friends delivered her computer to me, and we exchanged numerous emails right up until the afternoon of her death.
It’s hard to believe there will be no more emails or meetings where we would talk quite frankly about the fun and the challenges of producing a local

Letters to the Editors

When things get tough, the tenderizer comes in handy … or something like that. You pulled it off, Brent; during the worst of times, you got the August issue of the paper to press on time!

The August Spirit was a fitting issue to be dedicat­ed to a remarkable and precious lady who spread her warmth and talents throughout Amherst. Unfortunate­ly, that would be her last issue. Bonni Miller left us too soon, and she did it with the grace and love of someone who truly knew the meaning of community. I’m still in awe since I learned she worked with you on this issue during her last days in July. My sympathies go to all my friends in Amherst who knew her well and share sadness in her passing.

When I gave the “keys” to the Jensen Community Spirit to Bonni several years ago, I hardly knew her. When I retired back then, the Jensen Center Board of Directors informed me she was their choice, without exception, to take over the duties as Publisher/Editor. I had to do a little investigating of my own—who was this mystery lady?

Fortunately, we both had mutual friends and col­leagues I contacted who also worked at Krause Pub­lications at different times. All agreed she would be a great choice, as she went on to prove until her final days.

Now, Brent, it seems that you get to take on the lead for the time being. I’m personally happy that the Spirit will continue onward. I’m not overstepping in saying I’m sure that Bonni would agree with me as well.

Randy L. Clausen

Denver, Colorado

Editor’s note: Thank you, Randy, for the kind words. It’s been my privilege for the past nearly four years to assist with the Spirit’s production, mostly from the advertising side, but also with some editorial work. That mission expanded when Bonni asked me to step in and produce the August issue when she was hospitalized in late July.

For now, our plans are to continue producing the Spirit with only some minor changes going forward.

As always, we encourage readers to share their “good news” with us for publication, whether that’s a full story, a news tip, or a photo. As the name implies, this is the community’s paper. Thanks to all who sub­mitted material this month.

Obituary

Bonni J. Miller
1962-2020
Bonni J. Miller, 58, of Waupaca, formerly of Iola, passed away Monday, July 27, 2020, at Select Specialty Hospital in Madison. Bonni was born in Marshfield on July 24, 1962, a daughter of Dorothy (Corn) Miller and the late Roger Miller.
Bonni grew up in Iola and graduated from Iola High School. She also attended Nicolet College in Rhinelander and UW-Stevens Point in Journalism. She was the editor of the Nicolet College newspaper; editor of Goldmine, a music album collector magazine, with Krause Publications of Iola; and editor-publisher of the Jensen Community Spirit.
She was also known as a remarkable cook who learned her sauces from her mother, Dorothy, and baking from her paternal grandmother, Olive Miller. She was the baker at the Arrowhead Café on the Mole Lake Reservation in the ’80s. Bonni was the owner and chief cook of her Waupaca restaurant, the Chez Marché, and sold baked goods at the Waupaca farm market. She championed organic local foods and farmers and, in her own way, urban farming with backyard rabbits and chickens. She always had a dog, from her childhood dogs of Moe and Blue to her present Dawg, now cared for by her long-time partner, Brian Thern.
Bonni’s love of music began early with the Beatles, Joplin, and Baez. Her musical appreciation was expanded by her editing of the Goldmine magazine and grew to a special liking for deep blues and rowdy rock. She enjoyed local live music and musicians. She surrounded herself with beauty and kindness. She supported artists and was herself skilled at pottery, painting, beadwork, and décor.
She was politically passionate, evolving from early Green Party, to Dennis Kuchinich—Dem, to her present love of Bernie. Her support mainly was based on caring for people, the environment, and fairness.
Bonni is survived by her mother, Dorothy Miller, and sister, Jill Miller, of Mosinee, WI. She was preceded in death by her father, Roger Miller, and grandparents Emmet and Lois Corn of Mosinee and Bert and Olive Miller of Withee.
A private family gathering was held Saturday, August 1, at the Voie Funeral Home in Iola. A public gathering will be held at a later time. The Voie Funeral Home assisted the family with arrangements.

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