South Shores Baptist Church
32712 Crown Valley Pky
Dana Point, CA 92629
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Clark J. Bonner

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Clark J. Bonner Obituary
April 28, 1922 - August 14, 2015 Sportsman, athlete, rancher, artist, and native Southern California developer, Clark Joaquin Bonner died at home in his sleep on Friday. He had a good ride, filled with 93 years of adventure. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, 5 children, 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and a bright legacy. Clark Bonner was born and raised in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, California. Except for a three-year stint serving Uncle Sam as an Army Air Force pilot during World War II, Clark lived his entire life in Southern California. He was a senior at Los Angeles High School when World War II broke out, and a sophomore at Stanford University when the U.S. entered the war. In 1943, while a junior at Stanford, he was drafted into the US Army Air Force 2 months shy of his 21st birthday. During his war years he served as a pilot instructor. He was thrilled with the assignment, having earned his basic pilot's license at age 19, and was enamored with flying-a passion that would continue the rest of his life. "Flying was dangerous stuff, even just training at home," he said. "Seemed like there was a crackup every week on most air bases. Lots of young guys died during training because Uncle Sam was churning out pilots as fast as he could. Seems like we lost half our guys before we could even get them out to fight." After eight months of bouncing from one air base to the next, Clark married his high school sweetheart, the late Betty Godshall Bonner, to whom he was married for 25 years. Clark used to remark that Betty was a great sport to accompany him in his nomadic military existence, especially since wives could not live on base with their husbands during the war years. Off-base housing was scarce or non-existent, and many Army wives were determined to make do. Clark loved to tell the story of when he served in Colorado, and the only place Betty could rent was a room in a brothel. She shared the room with other young Army wives, agreeing to "hot bunk it" in that room when their husbands had leave on the weekends. The rest of the week the girls kept large pieces of furniture piled up against the door to protect themselves from the drunks who occasionally mistook their room for an opportunity. When the gentlemen could not be persuaded through the door that there was no vacancy, the girls scaled the mountain of furniture blocking the door to pour cold water on woozy heads through the transom. Clark had a great deal of respect for Betty, and anyone else who showed bravery despite trying circumstances; an attitude notable in his character and positive outlook through later decades of painful health issues. After the war, Clark graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in engineering. He went to work for his father, Clark J. Bonner, Sr., a prominent real estate developer who founded the city of Lakewood and built much of early Long Beach on swampland and beet fields. After his father's death in 1949, Clark founded his own real estate development company, which later became known as the C. J. Bonner Corporation. A successful Southern California builder, Clark pioneered many concepts in the construction of small business complexes and multi-family dwellings, including the "zero-lot-line" idea, whereby residential structures are built close to the property line in order to create more usable space. Later, his company enjoyed great success building and managing Mini U Storage units, eventually expanding their operations across the country. Clark later married Nancy Stoddard and they became inseparable. If Clark traveled for more than an overnight trip, he was miserably homesick unless Nancy was by his side; they recently celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary. Clark was a wordsmith, with an endless string of nicknames for his petite, pretty wife: "Little Honey," "Little Buddy," "Little Fella," "Little Sweet," "Shorty," "Stubby," "Aunt Nancy," and "Fancy Nancy." Although they journeyed to many exotic spots around the world-Clark being mistaken for John Wayne while visiting China in the early 1980's¿he didn't have the heart to tell them Wayne was no longer alive-their favorite form of travel in later years was road trips, driving around the country wherever there was good food, art, or natural beauty. Clark credited nearly everything he learned about art from Nancy, saying she was his "walking encyclopedia who could spell the legs off a librarian." Clark and Nancy loved the outdoors, spending every weekend at Creek Hollow Ranch outside of Ramona, California, which they built and maintained for 25 years. They later sold that ranch to build Pinetops outside of Julian, California, where both of their artistic natures found full expression. Work was their play on weekends-raising vegetables, tending flowers and fruit orchards, fishing, hunting, building new ways to keep the right animals in (sheep, cattle, and chickens) and everything else out, creating a beautiful space where nature could be appreciated as it was intended. Eventually, retirement, bad hips, and what would grow to be a record-sized aneurysm slowed down Clark's breakneck pace as a developer; he invested even more time in his burgeoning family. The annual dove hunt in September surrounded by an assortment of kids and grandkids was the highlight of his year. In his later years after, as he put it, "coming to an understanding with the Lord," every day was a reason to celebrate. Happy hour was truly happy and found Clark each evening with a glass of his so-called "medicine" in one hand and a phone in the other, calling family, friends, and widows of friends all over the country. As more and more of his friends passed on, he lamented being the last guy standing and, until recently, was the last of two living classmates at Stanford. Once phone calls were over and thanks was given to the Lord, the King of Barbecue would hand his guest a steak, tripled-sprinkled in mysterious seasonings, and say, "Here, eat that. It'll put hair on your chest." With irresistible charisma and an endless supply of stories, he kept folks laughing through dinner. No wonder he became a popular greeter at his beloved South Shores Church, arriving an hour early every week just so he could shake hands with everyone in sight, addressing them all by name and following up with "How the heck are ya?" Irrepressible, indefatigable, and eager to start the next project, Clark is undoubtedly giving the Lord an earful about landscaping around the pearly gates with some peeled natural logs and a few ferns at the corners. Despite his full life, we are stunned he is gone. The depth of our grief is matched by the greatness of our memories of him; he will be fiercely missed. We invite family and friends to celebrate his life at South Shores Church, Dana Point, CA, Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation to the Pinetops Foundation or the South Shores Church building fund.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Aug. 21 to Aug. 23, 2015
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