“I knew I wanted to marry Dennis when I was eleven,” Bonnie would often say. Growing up as neighbors in Chicago, Dennis was best friends with Bonnie’s brother, Daniel. Dennis, Bonnie, and Daniel would cut school to go to Cubs games, and Bonnie carried her “Die Hard Cubs Fan” membership card in her wallet since 1955.
Bonnie and Dennis were engaged in 1964, at the ages of 18 and 20. As an engagement gift to Dennis, Bonnie snuck into an aviation junkyard and pried a 72″ wooden propellor from an airplane. The propellor was their only possession to survive hurricane Andrew, and continued to be displayed in their home throughout their lives. As young, independent newlyweds, they couldn’t afford to both be in school at the same time, so Bonnie worked to support Dennis through school. He graduated from University of Illinois with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and later received his Masters Degree in the same from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before his NASA fellowship. It was then Bonnie’s turn to finish school, and she graduated from Florida International University with a degree in Biochemistry.
While finishing her degree, Bonnie came up with an idea to start a business and pitched the idea to Dennis. They worked together to build Maxwell Rand, a Medical Software Programming company which was later bought by a division of Johnson & Johnson.
Although Dennis and Bonnie were successful entrepreneurs, they had found their true passion in sailing. They purchased a live-aboard sailboat in Lake Michigan, sold their business, and sailed that boat down the Mississippi to the Gulf, where they set sail to explore the world. They crossed the Atlantic, anchoring all over the Mediterranean (including France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and many others), and crossed back again to explore South America and the Caribbean (Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and many others). In all, they spent over 30 years living on a sailboat, adventuring, and exploring the world, proudly proclaiming themselves as “Sailboat Trash”.
Upon their return to land (Land Lubbers!), their passion for adventure led them to flying. Dennis had completed his first solo flight in 1960 at the age of 16, and they began their re-entry into aviation with their Mooney. Just before their 50th anniversary, Dennis asked Bonnie what she would like to do to celebrate. She wanted them to build their own airplane! And so began the journey of building their RV12 – their 50th wedding anniversary gift to each other. Dennis would often joke that “she doesn’t want much, but what she does want are doozies!”
Both Dennis and Bonnie loved sharing their passion and enthusiasm for aviation, and as Lifetime EAA members they mentored many Young Eagles, student pilots, and engineering students. Their greatest wish was to “leave a clean wake” – a phrase they held dear from their years at sea, meaning to make the world a better place. The impact of their lives on everyone who knew them is beyond measure, and there are no adequate words to describe how deeply they will both be missed.
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