Bonnie Ahlvers Peckham Rathbun - Salina KS
7/15/1929 - 8/26/2018
Bonnie June Ahlvers Peckham Rathbun was born July 15,
1929, at her family’s farm south of Glen Elder, Kansas, to Adolph and Leila
(DeLand) Ahlvers. She was welcomed by
big brothers Harold and Melvin. 5 years
later, little brother Raymond arrived.
She was very proud of being an Ahlvers, and of growing up in the Glen
Elder community. If that wasn’t who you
were, and where you were raised, it just wasn’t done right!
Bonnie died August 26, 2018, after a good long life of
living, working and loving.
After Bonnie graduated from Glen Elder High School, she
attended an 8 week teacher training course at Kansas State University. For two
years, she taught elementary school at Lone Hill School south of Glen Elder,
Bonnie married Verdon Peckham December 26, 1948. Their three-girls-and-a-boy, Bernita, Lila,
Carol and John came along in close proximity to each other. One year:
first, second, third, fourth grade.
Another year: Freshman,
sophomore, junior, senior in high school.
And, another year, freshman, sophomore, junior, senior in college.
Always the hard worker, she helped with the farm chores,
cleaned, gardened, canned, sewed, volunteered, and cared for her in-laws as
they aged. One year, she sewed 27 little
dresses for her 3 daughters. She was a
She was an avid gardener.
She loved her many plants and fussed over them every day.
The laundry was done on a wringer washer in the wash
house. She had to carry the water in
buckets and heat it on the gas boiler before she could do the laundry. In the winter, the clothes either froze on
the line, or slapped you in the face as it dried on lines strung across the
Education was extremely important to her. She taught her daughters to read before they
went to school. (John had no interest in
that, she said). After her children got
started in school, she went back to school herself—driving to Hays to take college
classes part time.
Verdon and Bonnie had a great love for children. In 1970, when only Carol and John were still
at home, they became foster parents. They cared for a number of foster children
over several years, making a lasting impact on their lives.
As she aged, she collected a group of young people who
called her “Grandma Bonnie”.
Over the years, Bonnie worked as a secretary at the high
school, as an Avon lady, and as activities director at Mid-America nursing
center in Lincoln.
After she and Verdon moved to southwest Missouri in 1986,
she found great joy from serving as a temporary worker at shops at Silver
Verdon’s death in 1991 was a devastating blow, but she
said, “Your dad died—I didn’t.”
She started a new job at the Methodist church in
Kimberling City. There, Pastor Paul
helped her heal.
After 3 or 4 years, a nice retired fellow named Marlin
started hanging around the church office.
He eventually asked her out. She
and Marlin married in the fall of 1995.
They travelled quite a bit, and enjoyed their home and garden. In 2001, they moved to Salina. Marlin died in 2011.
Three years ago, Bonnie moved to Arbor Court where she created
a home for herself and made friends. Not
long after she moved to Arbor Court, a nice gentleman—Ben Hillyard—became her
friend, and they shared a very special relationship until he died last
Bonnie’s faith was important to her. She made sure that her kids went to church
and Sunday school. She taught Bible
school and Sunday school (she especially loved the high school class she taught
at the Methodist church in Hunter), book studies and Bible studies. Three years ago, she gave up teaching her
She lived her faith, caring for her in-laws and elderly
neighbors. She loved children—always
“teaching” something, whether it was as a mom, 4-H leader, foster mom, “making
a recipe” with her grandchildren, or cooking and having sleepovers and tea
parties with her great granddaughters, and becoming “Grandma Bonnie” to several
Bonnie dearly loved marshmallow crème, bacon, chocolate,
pig figurines and the color orange.
Some of her greatest struggles over the past couple of
years have been that she didn’t feel useful any longer, and that so many of her
loved ones and friends are gone.
So many thanks are due to her wonderful nurse and caregivers
who helped her to remain independent right up to the time of her stroke: Jennifer, Roxanne, Lynn, Henrietta, Kim, Lindsay
and Angel, who have showered her with their love and care.
Bonnie is survived by her children, Bernita Moss of
Whiney Point, NY; Lila Peckham-Wichman of Overland Park; Carol (Ed) Viar of
Salina; and John (Terri) Peckham of Alden. Grandchildren Heidi McNeal, Adam
Moss, Nathan Wichman, Dustin Wichman, Todd Viar, Lance Viar, James Viar, Sara
Johnston, John Peckham, Seth Peckham, and 14 great grandchildren.
Sister-in-law, Diane Ahlvers; and many nieces, nephews, and great nieces and
“A good woman who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”
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