As Connie Stewart, I grew up on a farm near Gates, in the Santiam Canyon, east of Salem, OR. Living on the farm, hard work such as chopping wood, milking a cow, separating cream from the milk, scooping poop and helping with gardening was a work ethic that would follow me through my years. My father was a carpenter and woodworker, while my mother was a beautician before she married my father, but returned to beauty school and became certified while I was in high school. She became a talented oil painting artist in her later years. Attending small schools growing up gave me the opportunity to form lasting friendships, which I treasure.
Upon graduation from high school, I began work at Pacific NW Bell as a Long Distance Telephone Operator in Salem, OR. About the same time I met my future husband. The first item of value that I bought was a sewing machine, as I'd learned to sew in Home Economics in high school and from my mother, who had made most of my clothes as I grew up.
A week before our marriage Dick Bonn had been Commissioned in the U.S. Navy. The day Dick and I were married, we began traveling by car to Charleston, SC, for a Navy Mine Sweeper School there for four months. Leaving Charleston. we drove back across the country to Long Beach, CA to Dick's first duty station. While there our first of three sons was born. Four years later, released from Naval active duty, we moved to Northern CA in Arcata where my husband went to Grad School in Wildlife Management at Humboldt State. He remained in Navy as a Reservist.
I worked for a couple of years while Dick was in school and working part-time. During that time our second son was born. Upon graduation and a move to Harrisburg, OR to his first job as a Wildlife Biologist, I became a full-time stay-at-home Mom and our third son was born. Four years later with a transfer, we moved to Albany, OR.
I became enthralled with tole painting and took a class at the local community college. Just as that first six weeks was ending, Dick was transferred again with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service to Richmond, VA. If you want to know about traveling with a family across the country over Christmas vacation in a winter that the jet streams were very southerly, I have a story for you! To put it mildly, we've had better and shorter trips!
I continued my tole painting on my own, and soon people were asking me to teach them, as it hadn't yet caught on in VA. I soon had two classes a week and grew in my own right as an artist at the same time. Then as I took a water color class and enjoyed it a lot, Dick was again transferred - to Columbus, OH in 1975.
Work beckoned me in Columbus with the increase in the cost of living, and I bravely entered the business world. Nearly 3 years later, we were transferred to Portland, OR. We were thrilled to be back in our home state of Oregon! I was hired at the administration offices at the Beaverton School District (western suburb of Portland) where I worked for 5 1/2 years. During that time I began taking oil painting classes, enjoying painting so much after the Ohio hiatus. I've continued to pick up a brush from time to time.
Dick was then transferred to Medford and we lived in the So. Oregon town of Eagle Point. I went to work, again in administration, at the Medford School District as Personnel Secretary to 450 Substitute Teachers and Leave Accounting for over 1,000 employees for the next 14+ years. To keep my sanity, I owned and operated Connie's Creations, a sewing and alterations business on the side, for several years.
Little did I know that we would have a lifetime of travel and meeting
new people, many of whom have remained lifetime friends.
We began traveling around the world in 1980....the beginning of travels that have taken us to 53 countries in six of the seven continents. A number of cruises have been enjoyed. Even a crash in the English Channel and we survived to tell our grand kids about it without a scratch! We have been in every state and all but two Canadian
Provinces. Meeting people and cultivating those relationships has
enriched my life.
Upon retirement, we began motor home traveling around this wonderful country of ours, then to So. CA as Snow Birds for 4 months a year for eight years. It was there that I enjoyed my first beading class and that's all it took. I knew I was hooked! No other craft or talent have I enjoyed as much.
Dick and I had been married more than 52 years when he passed away due to Lymphoma; it's been a lifetime of fun and excitement! Keeping our many life-long and newer friends all along the way and especially our family has been wonderful and very special, but one definitely needs to nurture those friendships over the years.
We have three successful sons and daughters-in-law, ten grandchildren and two great grand daughters. The grandchildren are scattered across the country. Some of the near-by grandchildren like learning to bead necklaces or bracelets with me and what makes me happiest is that they like making them for someone special! That's been one of my joys - gifting with my jewelry. They also always ask me to paint animals, etc. on their faces, arms and/or legs! Grand kids are great!
In 1989-90, I worked non-stop for 15 months on updating my husband's family history, starting out with around 200 names, and ending up with over 2,000. It was before e-mail existed, so it was all done by snail mail. I did have a computer, but I didn't even yet have Word Perfect or a family history program, so I created my own data base! What a rewarding experience - it's addictive! And I found so many people from around the country that we didn't even know about! I hope one day to meet each of those people. Dick was the eldest in his branch's generation of Bonn's, numbering 59. Unfortunately, we have lost several in the last few years. Three hundred books were published, with only a handful remaining - for my family. It's totally outdated now, but it's history, and I am proud of my accomplishment. Will I bring it up to date? Since I'm fully into beading, it's doubtful.