Read Bonnie Proctor's obituary.
Someday a memorial flower garden will honor Bonnie Proctor, the kind, funny “lifelong nurse” involved in much of Richmond Hill’s civic and social life for decades – so much so that Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter called her “the consummate volunteer and leader.”
Some, but by no means all, of those who knew her best recalled her generosity and her love of life as friends and family gathered March 9 at Richmond Hill Funeral Home for a celebration of Proctor’s life.
“I’m trying to think of a couple of things that I could share of Miss Bonnie,” Richmond Hill Police Chief Mitch Shores said.
“Miss Bonnie was I guess what we would refer to as a straight shooter. You never had any doubt about how she felt about things. She did not mince words. She did not mince words about how she felt about her family or how she felt about her faith.”
What’s more, Proctor, who was 79 when she died March 3 after an illness, “had a habit of claiming things she was proud of,” Shores continued. “When she talked about Richmond Hill she’d refer to it as ‘our’ little town and how much it was growing and all the years she worked with the Seafood Festival she called it ‘our festival.’” Shores said he was proud when Proctor began to introduce him to visitors to Exchange Club meetings as “our police chief,” he said.
“I had listened to how she claimed things she was proud of,” Shores added. “And to take any doubt of that away she would pull me off to the side. She told me on a number of occasions, ‘we’re so proud of you,’ and I think that exemplifies her life as an encourager. She lifted so many people’s spirits. I just so enjoyed the time I got to spend with her.”
Lisa Freeman, a retired teacher who founded the Matthew Freeman Project in 2009 after her son, U.S. Marine Captain Matthew Freeman, was killed in combat in Afghanistan, credited Proctor and her late husband Bob as being the first real neighbors she and her family had. “I never knew what a real neighbor was until we moved next door,” Freeman said, noting that she and Proctor, “met many times in the middle of the back yard to solve the world’s problems. She was a true gift to me and my family.”
And when Freeman’s son was killed, Proctor “was one of the first ones by my side and she stayed with me throughout,” she said, helping with both the Matthew Freeman Project and a 5K in his honor. “I’m just thankful she was in my life and that God gave me such a tremendous gift.”
Proctor, a nurse by profession, served as a member of both the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce – she was chairman in 2007 – and in the Exchange Club, where she was spent decades helping organize both the Chamber’s Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival and the Exchange Club’s long-running Kids Fishing Derby, now named after longtime club member Lynn Bennett.
“She was a great lady,” said Bennett, who now lives in Bulloch County, as he listed Proctor’s myriad volunteer efforts in an email. “She and Bob (Bonnie’s late husband) were our next door neighbors in Mill Run for several years in the late 1980s and 1990s.”
Bennett said Proctor “was one of those rare individuals who work hard to make the community better, but never wanted or expected a lot of recognition or praise for their efforts. South Bryan County is a better place because of Bonnie, and she will be sorely missed.”
In an email, longtime Exchange Club member Mark Bolton recalled Proctor’s community service through the club and chamber and her “untiring devotion to the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.
“She brought a wealth of institutional knowledge to both organizations,” he said. “There is a void left in our community with the passing of Bonnie Proctor that is not easily filled.”
Carpenter said Proctor “had an enormous impact on the city, namely the Seafood Festival and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helped make our City Center a reality. Her diligence, wisdom and hearty laugh will be missed.”
Proctor, who long helped organize the Richmond Hill Christmas Parade and was its 2017 grand marshal, also served as a director on the board of the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The CVB’s executive director, Christy Sherman, worked with Proctor for years during that time and is now involved in plans to create a garden in memory of Proctor.
“A few weeks before her passing, Bonnie approached me about her desire to share her love of flowers by establishing a community flower garden,” Sherman said. “She asked me to help create a beautiful space in the city where visitors and residents could sit, reflect, and enjoy the beauty of a flower garden. I am currently working with her family, a native plant specialist, and others who can help find the perfect space and plant materials to make this idea blossom.”
Tanya Meguiar, Proctor’s youngest daughter and an elementary school teacher in Liberty County, told those at the celebration service that people often tell her she looks like her mother.
“There was only one Bonnie Proctor, she was different, unique, one of a kind,” Meguiar said. “She was a giver of anything she felt like somebody needed. She was a neighbor, a friend, a caregiver and my best friend.”
There were moments of humor at the service, such as when Shore said there “Miss Bonnie was one of only two women in this town that I can come home and have lipstick on my collar and not get into any trouble,” then added that now that she was gone, “I’m going to have to straighten up a little bit.”
And, Proctor’s nephew, Paul Harrell, who officiated the service, told stories of Proctor’s turnips and of Proctor attacking a homemade water slide on a hot day in which, when she got to the end, “she stood up and quickly realized her sleeveless top was no longer a top but had become a middle, bra and all.
“If you’ve never experienced an R-rated slip in slide,” Harrell said. “We laughed about that for years. Bonnie laughed most of all.”
Proctor, who in a 2010 story in the Bryan County News in which she answered a Proust questionnaire, responded to the question, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?” by saying, “The only thing you leave this world with is what you give away, so be generous.”
She lived up to it, Shores said.
“I’ve heard it said or read somewhere that you can measure the value of someone’s life by how much they give away,” he said. “In that regard, Miss Bonnie’s life had limitless value.”
Editor’s note: Look for more on efforts to create a garden for Proctor in future issues of the Bryan County News.