Mary Bonnie Bonn Bice


Mary Bonnie Bonn Bice, age 94, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

A memorial service will be held to celebrate her life at 2 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on North Broadway Avenue in Tyler.

Bonnie and her twin brother were born in New York City on Oct. 3, 1918, into a family of artists and performers. Her mother was a dancer in Broadway's Ziegfeld Follies. Her father was a stage manager for the Shubert and Belasco theaters.

Threatened by the deadly flu pandemic that had just begun to grip New York, her father moved the family to the West Coast. Bonnie grew up in Los Angeles during the 1920s, an era when Hollywood established itself as the world's film capital. Surrounded by uncles and aunts who worked in motion pictures, she crossed paths with some of Tinsel Town's biggest stars.

When she was 12, she was featured in Maurice Kusell's Stars of Tomorrow stage show alongside the Gumm sisters trio. Frances Gumm later became better known by her stage name, Judy Garland.

In her late teens, she took one of her first jobs with Walt Disney Studios, working with hundreds of other artists on the first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Bonnie colored many of the 1.5 million individual cels that were hand drawn by the animators to create the movie.

"The animators would come to her and tell her they wanted a specific color, and she had a gift for mixing color. She could look at the color wheel and tell you which colors to put together to make any shade, and they knew that when they hired her," said her daughter, Georgia DeKoker.

Throughout her life, she never lost her love of theater and the arts. She often participated in community theater productions at Tyler Junior College and the LDS church.

She married Eugene Frank Bice in 1941. They had two daughters.

The family moved to Tyler in 1953 where they established a manufacturing and sporting goods business near Pounds Field. Bonnie worked alongside her husband designing tents and other canvas products.

In the late 1960s, she took a post as the director of women's activities at the Tyler YMCA. In that role, she introduced new kinds of exercise to women in East Texas, including yoga, which she learned by studying the poses in books and aerobics - the idea that vigorous movement, the kind that raised a person's heart rate, was important for health.

She continued to work into her 80s.

She was also active in the community, volunteering her time at the East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital, which is now the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler. She was also a woman of faith and accepted many assignments over the years in her church.

Bonnie had a deep commitment to her family. She cared for her aging parents and several other relatives until their deaths; and helped to raise two of her grandchildren after their parents divorced.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Mary Brodie and George Bonn, her brother, Robert Bonn; and her grandson, Jon Erik DeKoker.

She is survived by her daughters, Bonnie Jo Kear and Georgia DeKoker, and grandchildren, Jerilyn (Terry) Caldwell, Belinda (Rick) Lowe, Brenda (Brent) Craig, Amanda (Mike) Bond, Kraig (Tonya) DeKoker and Katherine Kear. She adored her great-grandchildren, Megan, Ashley, Zachary, Tyler, Hallie, Addilyn and Holden.

The family wishes to thank the staff of Country Place Village in Kilgore for their compassionate care.

Published in Tyler Morning Telegraph on Feb. 17, 2013
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