It is difficult to say goodbye to dearly loved ones without also honoring their memory. Great aunt Bonnie Holmes had an incredible wit and kind demeanor with an ever so subtle funny bone. I will remember her fondly for as long as I live, and I intend to share her story as frequently as possible so that others who didn’t know her might understand her undeniable impact on those around her and history itself.
My great aunt Bonnie G. Holmes died on Friday, December 5 at the age of 84 after complications from a stroke. It was my honor to offer eulogy at Bonnie’s funeral along with her grandson and my mother. I’ve recently been reading over some of the many notes that she kept from her 18 year career at NASA as Dr. Wernher von Braun’s secretary, including some of her own remembrances. It’s difficult to represent a lifetime of achievement in a simple collection of words.
Her involvement in shaping history is awe inspiring and I intend to share more of those remembrances, memorabilia, and history in future writings. I’d like to share below a copy of the text that I delivered at her funeral on December 8, 2014 in Eva, AL. It was an exceptionally difficult thing to do, just as saying goodbye to her has been so hard, however it’s the love that we all shared for Bonnie and memories of her that bring a smile back.
Remembrances of Bonnie G. Holmes
Hello, my name is Jesse Heady, I’m one of Bonnie’s grand nephews. I’d like to take a few moments to honor great aunt Bonnie and represent the great- grand kids of the extended Green family.
Bonnie inspired myself and others as children to push our personal boundaries and dreams, she introduced us to astronauts and space and technology, and I will always be grateful for her tremendous legacy at NASA. Her work with Dr. von Braun and others was remarkable and priceless; she lived history and we live in awe and admiration of her contributions.
It wasn’t until years after my experiences at Space Camp that I realized and recognized the significant role she played at Marshall, NASA, and the Rocket Center, let alone the very foundation of Space Camp itself. While many children grow up dreaming to be astronauts, so many of us here are fortunate enough to have lived it vicariously through Bonnie.
I had a phone conversation with my brother Eli on Friday where we discussed great aunt Bonnie and our grief and joy. Eli quipped that the timing of the recent Orion launch delay on Thursday morning, and subsequent successful launch on Friday morning, was auspicious. I agree; it’s as if they were waiting for Bonnie to go along for the ride, and we know that she did. I hope that an entirely new generation carries us forward, just as pioneers like Bonnie did.
Great aunt Bonnie was known as Granny to her grand- and great-grand- children. My own daughter, Bettye Grace, is named for two of her great grandmothers, one of whom was Bettye Maddux Green Payne, my own Granny who passed away in 2007. Unfortunately, just before Thanksgiving this year, we also lost my wife Jenny’s own Granny, Shirley Heston, who everyone also called simply “Granny”.
Now we gather here to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing, of another amazing and inspirational Granny; a woman who in some ways I consider another Granny, just as the others we’ve lost. Great aunt Bonnie was one of a kind, and humble in her career and deeds with NASA, and while we’re all very proud of that especially, we knew her simply as great aunt Bonnie or Granny.
My own name is a name-sake of my great grandfather Jesse Green. My mother’s sister and my aunt, Bonnie Sue, is the namesake of great aunt Bonnie just as my own daughter is the namesake of my Granny. That’s a lot of “name-saking” going on in our family, I know, but let me just say I am looking forward to meeting the next Bonnie.
Strong matriarchs are the foundation of our family and Bonnie embodied these principles. We knew her generous spirit, her clever wit, her beautiful smile, her cooking, and her prowess at Scrabble and Chicken Foot. She truly was a force to be reckoned with; and I know those Grannies are together and that brings me solace in this time of grief.
I will miss her smile and jovial nature. I will miss her generosity and care at taking care of others. I will miss her very presence and being. She will be missed deeply by us all but I know her spirit lives on and I am so very grateful for the time we all had with her on this Earth.
Bonnie Holmes was such a wonderful, caring, and inspirational woman. It’s such a difficult thing we have to do, to say goodbye to such a force, an amazing person who inspired multiple generations within our family, and beyond. We do that today, we celebrate her with all the grace and love that she taught us in life.
- Bonnie Holmes Obituary (AL.com)
- Tennessee Valley obituaries for Dec. 6: Bonnie Holmes was 'the lady I work for,' von Braun said (AL.com)
- Bonnie Holmes, long-time assistant to Dr. Wernher von Braun, passes away (AL.com)
- Colleagues mourn passing of von Braun secretary (WAFF)
- Peck Funeral Home virtual guestbook for Bonnie G. Holmes