Bonnie Ann Burnett passed away peacefully at home Sunday, April 4, 2021. She was born March 31, 1961 in Saginaw, MI a daughter of the late Quinter M. and Anna M. (Zidzik) Burnett.
Bonnie Ann grew up in Saginaw, MI, as the youngest of four children. She described her family home as being "on the edge of disappearing farmland". Her mother loved art, and her father loved nature. Those two interests found a lifelong passion in Bonnie Ann that she would pursue and nurture all her years.
She graduated from Sts. Peter and Paul Area High School (Saginaw, MI) and then the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI). Her first career was as a scientist in Kalamazoo, MI at the Upjohn Company. She used her biology degree to make discoveries in labs and make presentations to colleagues across the country. Although her name is still attached to some biology patents, her biggest discovery was that her job did not satisfy her deepest needs.
In Bonnie Ann's own words, she "ran away from her corporate career as a scientist to follow her childhood dream of being a National Park Ranger." But the National Park System felt she lacked the appropriate job experience and initially turned her down. Undaunted, she packed up her car with all her worldly belongings, left Kalamazoo and headed for Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, to volunteer until they would hire her. After a year of working for room and board in the Black Hills she achieved that goal and became a National Park Interpretive Ranger there. The land, caves, prairies, big sky and animals shaped her greatly.
Her next goal was Alaska and in 1995 she landed the same job at a park there. For most of five years she lived on the edge of the wilderness, "hiking among bear and wolf, living among the stones and working at Denali National Park," as she described it. She led tourists on the adventure of their lives, pointing out caribou, moose, wolves, and grizzly bears while walking mountain trails in alpine meadows and up and down glacial ice. Most park jobs are not year-round and hers was no exception, but she stayed in Alaska half of her winters there, in a very simple backwoods cabin near Talkeetna because she loved the land, the nature and the people. Her artistic expression began exerting itself stronger there.
Bonnie Ann left Alaska in 1999, relocating to Chester PA, a small town outside of Philadelphia, where she lived for the next 20 years. There she kindled those agrarian and artistic flames that were emerging. She launched her own fine gardening company, Earthdance Garden Care, which tended gardens along the Main Line and in Delaware County for 13+ years. At the same time, she got plugged into the Philadelphia art community by being an artist model for painting and sculpture classes at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). She had a side job of baking and artistically decorated large cakes for receptions at the PAFA and at local classical concerts. Her many edible works once included reproducing Monet's Water Lilies on a 3 ft. by 5 ft. sheet cake with amazing accuracy.
A number of years of taking sculpting classes followed, and Bonnie Ann honed her latest passion, creating ceramics, both at the PAFA and the Wallingford, PA Community Arts Center. She began producing her own sculpted pieces, some practical for use, some decorative for homes and some large for museum display. She learned to dig her own clay from local streams and to introduce ash and other elements into pieces pre-firing to add beauty and character. In 2016 she joined The Potters Guild, Wallingford, PA - a cooperative of professional potters active since the 1960s. She participated in numerous shows and galleries on the East Coast and in the Midwest as a fulltime ceramics artist. She was also an excellent photographer over the years with a keen eye for nature. In 2015 she self-published a photography book, the Stones of St. David, detailing a visit to the shores of Wales and the rocks of the coast there. In Chester she discovered another creative outlet, that of writing. She began to pen her stories and ideas and saw much more of this coming on the horizon of her future.
Bonnie Ann's heart went out to stray animals, especially cats. In Pennsylvania she gave much of her free time to work with the Pet Adoption and Lifecare Society (P.A.L.S.), and sometimes all on her own, in suburban Philadelphia to rescue over 500 cats from the city streets. She would personally nurse many of them back to health, place them in good homes, save their lives and give them a chance.
Bonnie Ann left Pennsylvania in 2019 and moved back to her home state of Michigan. There she pursued her final career of Permaculture Designer. She studied online through Verge Permaculture (out of Alberta, Canada) and achieved her certification. She was implementing her plan at the family's farm property (her so called "Enchanted Place") in Northern Michigan in the last years of her life.
Through all of her passions, achievements, careers, adventures, struggles, locations and journeys, Bonnie Ann had the most incredible gift to easily and deeply befriend everyone and everything she met, whether it be person, animal, plant, rock or water. She could see beauty in the smallest things that might get overlooked. She had an army of close friends, that emotionally supported her until the end, from all over the country and the world.
Bonnie Ann is survived by her four siblings: Noel Cox, Quinter (Janis) Burnett II, Annabelle (James) Wujkowski, and Jefferey (Beth) Burnett; Eight nieces and nephews: Kimberly Cox, Erin Smith, Evan Cox, Kyle Burnett, Jennifer Haines, Cameron Burnett, Morgan Banno, Philip Wujkowski; and 5 great nieces and nephews. Private burial services will be held at Ridgeview Memorial Gardens in Grandville, MI. Memorials may be directed to Verge Permaculture for the Bonnie Ann Burnett Scholarship Fund (https://vergepermaculture.ca/bonnie-ann-scholarship-fund/)
or Hospice of Southwest Michigan. Services entrusted to Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services, 622 S Burdick St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007. To view Bonnie's personalized web page, please visit https://www.langelands.com