Bernice, or “Lonnie” to everyone but her parents, lost her fight with cancer and passed away in her home in Fort Mohave, Arizona on 9 Jun 2015. We all mourn her passing as she was an eminent member in both sides of my family. She was born a Cason, my mother’s next oldest sibling, and then married 54 years ago, to Jack Donner who is my father’s eldest sibling.
Bernice Cason was born near Alex, Grady, Oklahoma on 20 Oct 1939. She was the third child of six. She married Jacky Dean Donner 22 July 1961 in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado. Bernice died 9 Jun 2015 in Fort Mohave, Mohave, Arizona.
Bernice’s children are Daniel D. Donner, Larry C. Donner, and James R. Donner. Her grandchildren are Waylon, Brittany, and Daniel James. She has two great grandchildren: Robert and Jack Duane who was born just one day after Bernice passed away.
Bernice’s parents are Alvin Dewey Cason (dec.) and Alice Mozell Ward (dec.). Her siblings are Alice Bronzie Fields (dec.), Delmer Dean Cason (dec.), Maxine Cason (dec.), Christine Nisbet and Connie Cason.
Bernice moved to the Grand Valley of Colorado with her parents and three siblings in 1947. She grew up in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado where she attended school and graduated from Grand Junction High School (go Tigers) in 1958. During the time she attended high school, Bernice received training as a institutional cook learning to cook and bake for large parties.
When Lonnie first met the love of her life, Jack Donner, he lived and worked on a ranch in Collbran, Colorado that he and his parents owned. Ranch work meant long, hard, and often unpredictable hours. Many fights between Lonnie and Jack revolved around missed dates do to something unpredictable happening on the ranch that caused Jack to miss a planned date. Lonnie was miserable because her love for Jack was so intense. No one understood her misery more than Maxine who was her younger sister and confident. Maxine finally got tired of the bickering and misery of Lonnie and told the two that they needed to quit fighting and get married. The pair started fighting over that. Maxine finally called the bishop of her church (LDS) and was able to schedule a day, time and place for the ceremony. Then she told Lonnie and Jack when, and where to show up.
When Lonnie and Jack first married, they moved with Lonnie’s young son, Dan, into a small cabin on the ranch that he and his parents owned in Collbran, Colorado. In 1963, after their son Larry was born, Jack joined the Colorado State Patrol as a state trooper and the family moved to Craig, Moffat, Colorado where their son James was born. Because of Jack’s job with the Colorado State Patrol, they lived in Delta, Kremmling, and Cortez. Jack retired from the Colorado State Patrol in 1989 and they settled in Delta where they lived until they moved to Fort Mohave, Arizona in 2013. There, Lonnie had her dream house with her dream kitchen, but of course, she had to remodel the home some.
Everyone in our family–both the Casons and the Donners–say the same thing when describing Lonnie: She was a great cook, baker, and hostess. Everyone looked forward to her holiday dinners. In our family, her spaghetti was legendary not to mention her delicious cinnamon rolls. Both sides of the family often gathered at Lonnie and Jack’s place for holidays. She made it look so easy. She lined the men up and told them what she needed them to do. She lined us kids up, putting us to work, and the women jumped in wherever they could. There was always massive amounts of food. Even the Donner men with large appetites could not put a dent in the food. Always, the cry was, “There’s still food left. You all need to eat up,” with which we all would groan. Eating a holiday meal at Lonnie and Jack’s did not mean you sat down and ate one meal–it meant you ate from the moment you got there until the moment you left some several hours later, or even the next day. There was always room at Lonnie’s table, and no one was allowed to leave hungry.
Besides her three sons, Lonnie and Jack had a hand in raising many strays–stray cats, stray dogs, and stray children. If one of her sons, as an adolescent, mentioned that a friend was having trouble with their parents or needed a place to stay for awhile, Lonnie and Jack opened their doors and their hearts. Their sons knew, after they became adults and moved out, that they were always welcome at their Mom and Dad’s if they needed a place to call home for awhile, and so did their friends.
Lonnie had many friends wherever she lived. She didn’t know a stranger, and was always willing to give a helping hand when needed. This stole the hearts of her neighbors and community, ingratiating her to them. Many times our holiday meals included her friends and neighbors.
Lonnie loved her home–whatever home she lived in. She kept it perfectly clean, and did her best to decorate it. She and Jack didn’t have a lot of money, but she didn’t mind because one of her favorite hobbies was going to yard sales and secondhand stores. She went to yard sales all around Delta and the Grand Valley so much, that she knew which sales to stay away from. I always admired the way she saw treasure in things that I only saw as junk. She knew a bargain when she saw one, and would not buy until she found that bargain. She told me that many times she would be out all weekend and not buy anything because either there wasn’t anything she wanted, or it wasn’t the right price. One holiday, we gathered at her home and she had a new (looked new) Broyhill sleeper sofa. I commented on the lovely sofa. Then she told me the story of how she bought it at the local Salvation Army–who had her name and phone number on file–for $60. Wow! I always wanted to learn from her on how to yard sale and bargain hunt, but she would just shrug her shoulders and say, “It takes patience. You have to know what you want and then wait for the right price.”
Lonnie didn’t just love her home on the inside, she loved her home on the outside, as well. She loved planting flowers and taking care of her yard. She used her yard to entertain in the summer, and it always looked as beautiful and immaculate as the inside of her home. She put out bird feeders and humming bird feeders every year.
Like I said, Lonnie and Jack didn’t have a lot of money, and many times, that meant buying a house that needed work. Lonnie didn’t mind. She enjoyed it. There was never a remodeling job that was too big or too hard for Lonnie to tackle. For the first five years of my life, we lived in Craig, Colorado near Lonnie and Jack. One day, my mom (Maxine) mentioned that she wanted to paint our kitchen. Lonnie jumped all over that and by the time my older siblings and cousins came home from school, the kitchen was painted.
Lonnie loved changing things. She loved to paint and repaint. She moved the furniture weekly, and if she was at one of her sister’s or sister-in-law’s house, and they mentioned rearranging the furniture–she was on
Lonnie was such an energetic and vivacious presence in our lives, that we, as an extended family, feel the hole that is left with her passing. Her husband, Jack is experiencing devastating grief at the loss of his lifetime friend and companion. Her children are at a loss. We take comfort though, knowing that she is in heaven with our Lord. As one of my cousins said, we know that Aunt Lonnie has gone to heaven, taken over the kitchen, and is cooking for the hosts of heaven. I also imagine that she has rearranged the furnishings, is painting, cleaning, and remodeling her mansion so it will be ready when her beloved joins her.