Bonnie Hester, “Ms. Bonnie” as I often called her, did not come across like a politician. But I was not surprised when she told me that she had served on the Peoria County Board. Ms. Bonnie had an infectious smile and always seemed to enjoy talking with people. My friendship with her blossomed when she served as a board member for Southside Community United for Change. I especially enjoyed working closely with her when she helped on the steering committee for SCUC’s 2nd annual 5K Walk in the Spring of 2019.
We met at the library on a few occasions, and she stepped up to the plate by offering assistance with contacting churches and other community groups. Many times, she made me laugh when we reflected on how much work there was to do. Even though she was not one to shy away from helping out, Ms. Bonnie often reminded me of her senior status by saying, “I’m old, and I’m slow.”
It was a privilege knowing Ms. Bonnie, and I learned a lot from her. There were times when she used her County Board experience to exert leadership. During one SCUC meeting when the conversations were getting “heated,” Ms. Bonnie made a signal to Vice President Robert Johnson to reign in the group and keep the meeting in order. I appreciated having that kind of wisdom and experience within our group. SCUC President Martha Ross, who had worked with Hester professionally for several years, recruited her to serve as a board member. Ross said Bonnie gave herself the title of Parliamentarian.
“She was always concerned about enhancing and promoting the Southside,” said Ross.
Bonnie’s passion for community service began during her young adult life. She was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties. She worked for 35 years at the Peoria City/County Health Department. During that time, she was a member of the Health Care Committee and represented health department employees. Bonnie was president of Local AFSCME #3665 for more than a dozen years. She was a board member for the West Central Illinois Labor Council and also served on the NAACP. Bonnie represented District 1 on the Peoria County Board for five years.
Her infectious personality and demeanor transcended cultural, religious, and age groups. She spoke fondly of her church, Christ Lutheran and its love for her was evident. SCUC members witnessed that close bond when we attended a pancake breakfast at Christ Lutheran Church several years ago. Bonnie was a Sunday School teacher at her church for nearly 30 years.
Ms. Bonnie passed away Tuesday, November 10th, at 10:50 am at Unity Point Methodist in Peoria, IL. Her funeral service was held November 19th in Carbondale, IL. She is survived by three adult children, six grandchildren, and a host of relatives and friends.
Thank you, Ms. Bonnie, for your friendship and commitment to the Peoria community.