Skip Navigation Links
Obituary: Bonita R. Smith, 79 - January 5, 2021
Bonita R. Smith, 79, passed away on January 5th, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin. She was born on July 15th, 1941, to Verna (Bohlander) and Raymond Gerdes and was raised in Minonk, Illinois where she graduated from the Minonk-Dana-Rutland High School.

Bonnie highly valued education and her life journey nearly always included taking a variety of classes as time allowed related to foreign languages, religion, history and the environment. Early in life she volunteered regularly to advocate for clean water, recycling, environmental clean- up and social justice. After marriage to James B. Smith and raising two boys she earned her bachelor's degree in Sociology and Social Work and proceeded to complete her Master of Science - Social Work degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992, with honors. Bonnie's career joy came from helping people through her more than 20 years of various social work assignments in Wisconsin, Illinois and Mississippi.

Bonnie loved music, blues and jazz in particular, attending local festivals as often as possible. Bonnie returned to Madison to be a part of her grandchildren's lives and so enjoyed visiting with them. She became a long time member of the First Unitarian Society in Madison. Later in life after retirement she loved taking classes at the Middleton Senior Center, playing Bridge with her friends as well as Scrabble with anyone who was up to the challenge, she usually won.

Bonnie loved to visit places, especially the Wisconsin north woods, and anywhere that had a beach where she would sit and listen to the waves crashing in. Sanibel Island Florida and Door County were her absolute favorite destinations over the years.

She has been called a "truly inspiring person showing strength, independence, and selflessness throughout her life".

Bonnie is survived by her two siblings, Gary (Karla) Gerdes, Carol Gerdes; her two children, Brian (Lisa) Smith, Chris (Rhonda) James and her three grandchildren, Drew Smith, Elizabeth and Heidi James.

Bonnie's family wishes to thank the entire staff at St. Mary's Care Center on Maple Grove Drive in Madison and SSM Hospice Care for their loving care during Bonnie's stay with them.

Due to Covid-19, private services will be held at a later date for immediate family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in Bonnie's memory to The Ridges Sanctuary at Door County or to Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin.