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March 26, 2001 1:49 pm

Diane E. Bonner

(Mar. 26, 2001)

Funeral services will be conducted Friday, March 30, at 2 p.m. at Union Presbyterian Church for Powell City Councilwoman, Diane E. Bonner, 61, who died Monday night, March 26 at St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, Mont., losing out in her struggle with leukemia.

The Rev. David Hunter will officiate at services and burial in Crown Hill Cemetery. A public viewing will take place from 7:30-9 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at Miratsky-Easton Funeral Home.

She was a ground breaker in public service and career. She was the first woman to serve on the Powell City Council, and she was the first woman to be elected president of the Wyoming Press Association. In 1989, she was the first woman honored as Powell's Community Builder of the Year, the highest award offered by the Chamber of Commerce.

She was born Nov. 19, 1939, in Lyman, daughter of Mark Elmer and Josephine (Giorgis) Elmer. She grew up in Evanston and attended Evanston schools, graduating from high school there in 1958. She attended the University of Wyoming, and it was there she met her future husband. She married Dave Bonner in Evanston on Aug. 26, 1961. They would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this summer.

She graduated from UW with a B.A. degree in art in 1962.

As a co-owner of the Powell Tribune since 1964, she was a working partner in the production of the newspaper for nearly 30 years. At her death, she was director of advertising.

She wore many hats at the Tribune. She took pictures. She sold ads. She wrote a personal column. Her popular column, Pssst, ran on Page 2 of the newspaper for some 20 years, winner of numerous awards from the Wyoming Press Association. She served as president of the state press association in 1989.

For the last six years, she had owned and operated, first with her son, Toby, and then as a solo venture, Wildflower Furnishings, a hand-painted furniture business. She had a studio at home to carry on her artistic pursuits.

Her career in city government began in 1984 when she was appointed to succeed Wes Vining who resigned. She represented Ward 2 on the city council for the next 17 years, winning election to four consecutive four-year terms after serving an initial two-year term by appointment.

She championed business and recreation opportunities as a member of the city council. She was a prime mover in the early 1990's downtown improvement project, going before the State Farm Loan Board several times for successful funding. She was chairman of the design development committee that selected red sidewalks, new street lights, trees, benches and other amenities in the downtown project. The downtown improvements helped Powell to win designation as an All-America City in 1994.

She also participated in the design development of The Commons as a downtown events center and the soon-to-be-built outdoor plaza and downtown business center.

The frog pond wading pool for children in Homesteader Park became a reality when she led a public drive for donations to make it possible.

She is probably best remembered as the founder and first chairman of the city-wide celebration, "Country Christmas," in its 16th year as a community event ushering in the Christmas season on the first weekend of December.

She served as chairman or co-chairman of "Country Christmas" since its inception.

Her Christmas undertakings are legend.

Even before she was on the city council, she enlisted the aid of the private sector - carpenters, painters and building materials suppliers - to donate time and materials to construct "Santa's House," a colorful Christmas fixture in Pond Park for many years until the advent of The Commons. Santa's House featured mechanical workshop elves and provided scheduled hours for kids to sit on Santa's lap.

One year she encouraged downtown businessmen to place lighted Christmas trees on top of their buildings - a main street aerial lighting display.

With the completed downtown beautification project in 1994 that introduced sidewalk trees to the business district, she made sure that the trees were lit - pink tops and white trunks - to create a cotton candy Christmas world.

If the city budget couldn't support enough Christmas lights, she cajoled business owners into providing lights for trees on their property.

She was also successful in getting the city to invest in large public Christmas lighting displays.

Diane has also been the city's representative on the Park County Travel Council since its inception. This joint powers board administers the county lodging tax and directs expenditures in promotion of tourism and events marketing, including Country Christmas.

She was named Kiwanis Citizen of the Year in 2000 as a role model for volunteer service.

She belonged to the Union Presbyterian Church, the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Wyoming Press Association, the National Press Women and the Wyoming Arts Council. She was a life member of the University of Wyoming Alumni Association and served on the College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Board and the UW Art Museum Board.

She loved color, and she loved decorating from parties and banquets to parade floats, but most of all at Christmas time. She loved to decorate her home for Christmas, each year her Christmas tree a new creation. Even the presents under the tree bore her special touch.

Her family was her greatest source of pride and joy. She lived for her children and grandchildren and the special family gatherings - the bigger, the better. Next to family, her bridge club was dear to her heart. Survivors include her husband Dave of Powell; her three children, all of Powell, Shelby Wetzel and husband John, Brad Bonner and wife Linda and Toby Bonner and wife Kristi; two sisters, Janice Walden and husband Jim of Ames, Iowa, and Patsy Madia and husband Dave of Evanston; one brother, Bob Elmer and wife Karen of Rock Springs; mother-in-law Nancy Bonner of Powell; five grandchildren, Davis and Annabel Bonner and Claire, Quin and Ben Wetzel; and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.

For those who wish, the family would appreciate memorial contributions to the Northwest College Foundation or the University of Wyoming Foundation.

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