MARVELL, Ark. Bonita "Bonnie" Jean (Johnston) Wilson-Cowles, of Marvell, died Feb. 24, 2005, at the St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. She was 68.
Bonnie was a teacher and librarian in Arkansas at the time of her illness and death.
Bonnie was born in February 1937, in Baker, Mont., the second child of Grover C. and Vesta L. (Lane) Johnston. She attended schools in Montana and Wyoming, graduating high school in Medicine Bow, Wyo., in 1953.
Following high school, Bonnie attended Central Business College in Denver, and after graduating, worked as a secretary, lived with other single girls, and for a short time, with her grandmother Florence Morgan. However, she always wanted to be a teacher and follow in her mother's footsteps, so she went back to college for a year. Her first teaching experience was in a one-room schoolhouse 50 miles from Jordan, Mont., in the Missouri Breaks. There were eight students in five grades and they all rode horseback to school.
Here, she met a rancher, Tom Wilson, and they were married in Jordan in 1960.
Bonnie and Tom adopted three foster children, George Thomas, Bonnie Marcellina and Joseph Wesley, and raised them on their ranch on Fort Peck Reservoir near Brusett, Mont.
When their marriage ended in divorce in 1977, Bonnie moved back to Billings and earned her BA in education. She also earned a master's degree in Reading Education at Montana State University at Billings.
She taught in Montana schools, except for a year in Connecticut, until 1994, when she married Don Cowles in Montana, and they were at home in Absarokee, Mont., where Don ran a local milk delivery service. In the summer of 1995, Bonnie earned a school librarian certification and, wanting to see the world, accepted a position in the American-Nicaraguan School in Managua for two years.
Although they liked the climate, the travel adventure and the diversified friendships, Don's health problems necessitated return to the U.S., where Bonnie resumed teaching in Montana, New Mexico and Arkansas.
Bonnie is survived by her husband, Don Cowles, of the home; her children, Sheryl Lopez and husband Ben of Thornton, Colo., George Wilson of St. Paul Park, Minn., Joe Wilson of Billings and Marcie Bricks of Billings; a granddaughter, Tanna Eschenko of Worden, Mont.; and grandsons, Steven Bricks of Billings and Aaron Lopez of Thornton. She is also survived by a sister, Florence Jester and husband Jerry of Salina, Kan.; two brothers, George Johnston of Renton, Wash., and Bob Johnston and wife Janice of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Bonnie's life was reflected in her indomitable spirit and a deep-seated advocacy for children, especially those in need of a caring adult in their lives. She had a talent for teaching and writing, and a love affair with the people and places of the West, especially Montana. She was always there for her siblings and their families, and will be greatly missed by all whose lives she touched.
Cremation has taken place. Her life will be celebrated at a memorial service on Saturday, March 12, in Colorado Springs. In the spring, her ashes will be interred in the grave of her grandmother Florence Meyer Lane Morgan, in Mountview Cemetery in Billings, in accordance with her wishes.
The Londeen Funeral Chapel in Chapman, Kan., is in charge of the arrangements. Memorials may be given to the Multiple Myeloma Research or the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch. Memorials may be sent in care of the Londeen Funeral Chapel, Box 429, Chapman, KS 67431.