Bonni Leu Banyard

Bonni’s one quote:
“Sisterhood is wonderful.”
Don’t we feel it in our hearts after knowing her! -Sherry

Bonni Leu Banyard, age 72, of Kerhonkson, died September 15 at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio October 29, 1947 to Jim and Margie Banyard (nee Melhuish) who pre-deceased her. She is also pre-deceased by her loving companion of more than ten years, Richard T. Gray and her brother Danny Banyard of Homerville, Ohio, who died in March 2019.

A graduate of Parma Senior High School and Bowling Green State University, Bonni was a self-employed bookkeeper, exotic bird and animal rescuer, avid garden enthusiast and photographer. She was a student at the Woodstock School of Art. Her creative talents influenced all aspects of her life, and she shared her gifts generously with family and friends. Victoria Coyne, one of many friends, remembers Bonni as “teacher, cheerleader, sounding board, wonderful chef, researcher, gardening enthusiast, travelling companion, friend and bookkeeper.” Victoria was among Bonni’s travelling companions. Victoria, Deb Grey, and sister Sherry went coast to coast together on multiple trips over the years. And, when Bonni was generously gifted a trip to the ancestral English countryside upon her retirement from clients Mary Anne and Richard Erickson of Blue Mountain Bistro naturally Sherry accompanied her on this lifetime experience!

Longtime friend Mary Gallagher shares a snapshot of friendship and adventures. “Bonni and I were friends, English majors and actresses together at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. In 1969 we graduated, and she was the first person I knew to move to NYC. She was going to get a master’s in English at Queens College, but she realized she needed a job instead and got one. No matter where she lived Bonni always had a job and made friends everywhere. During the first two years in NYC, she lived in 12 apartments and I and other friends coming to try NYC would sleep on her floors and couches and help her move to the next apartment, sometimes by subway. She always had a bird or a dog or a cat or all three. In one duplex apartment in Yorkville, the ground floor had nothing but mattresses and sheets on clotheslines and many different friends could come and crash and did.

In the 70s she did administrative work and acted in off-off-Broadway shows including Telemachus Clay and Cabaret, in which she played Fraulein Schneider and sang in her great bluesy alto. In the late 70s she was one of the three founders of Executive Video Forum, a company which gathered leaders in various fields to discuss issues, problems and ways to solve them, and videotaped and marketed them. When that ended Bonni got into freelance bookkeeping, making lifelong friends of many of her clients.

She first came to the Hudson Valley in the early 80s when she had a boyfriend with a share in a bungalow colony in Spring Glen. Then in 1983, my husband Michael Swift and I bought a partly built house in Kerhonkson and Bonni would come up from NYC every weekend and sleep in a tent in our back yard. She put our first garden in while we put the roof on our house. Then she bought a bungalow down the road and expanded it and eventually moved up here full time, finding new clients all over the area. In the late eighties she fell in love with our dear friend and neighbor Rich Gray. He was the love of her life and they had 10 great years together until he died. She was a terrific writer and sold a story to Cosmopolitan in the early 70s. She was a terrific visual artist and photographer and continued to study with artist-teachers. Gardening was one of her favorite art forms too.”

“Bonni was an important member of the Stone Ridge Library team as our bookkeeper for more than twenty years,” remembers Library Director Jody Ford. “And she also volunteered for every library fair to manage the financial receipts of our largest annual fundraiser. For years and years, after a long Fair Day, the last person I saw was Bonni. She was always there for me, whatever I needed.” Library Trustee Victoria Schulte remembers, “For me, I will miss her most at the Fair. It was there that we spent many hours counting the money from the many booths to see if we had reached our collective goal and tallying what each booth earned, packing the cash in bags for deposit and ferreting out the cause of discrepancies to resolve. In between all that we managed to exchange stories, share strawberry shortcakes, sausage & peppers and had fun doing it all.”

Diane DeChillo, who met Bonni at Shellbark Farm, a historic farm in Accord, remembers her wicked and wonderful sense of humor, and her famous “pig call.” “And then, later in our Library days, I would always await Bonni’s ‘Floradorables’ calendar—a gift which showcased both her talent in growing amazing flowers and her photography skills.”

Bonni had the gift of laughter. “I feel like I lost a sister,” said dear friend Deb Tobin Gray. “But even now, although we’re heartbroken, as we remember all the stories, we end up laughing.”

Bonni leaves behind her devoted sister Sherry Spencer and husband Garry of Middleburg, Ohio Heights, Ohio, nephews the Reverend Adam Patrick Spencer and his wife Rose Sengenberger of New York City and Shane Tyler Spencer and his wife Erin Myosky and their sweet baby Lyanna Mae Spencer, Bonni’s great niece, of Strongsville, Ohio, as well as many lifelong friends and travelling companions.

Arrangements are pending. The family has asked that memorial donations may be made to the Stone Ridge Library.

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