Obituary Donated by Joyce Collins

The Barbourville Mountain Advocate - Thursday, November 8, 2007


On Oct. 2, 2007, Knox County lost a wonderful person and valuable citizen to the dreaded disease of cancer-Bonnie Baker Powell. Bonnie was a citizen who was such an asset to the Kentucky School system, the Knox County School System, the Salt Gum Baptist Church, the Locust Grove Baptist Church, her family, her friends, and her neighbors. She possessed admirable qualities that should be pursued by all men-love, compassion, honesty, forgiveness, dependabiltiy, a strong work ethic, fairness and justice. Bonnie Baker Powell, wife of Wilburn Jack Powell, brought much to those around her throughout her fifty-nine years. As a child reared in Stinking Creek, she endured many hardships and used the hard times to make her a strong productive caring citizen. Bonnie, a person with much dedication and self-discipline, always loved to read and loved to learn. She attended a one-room school in Stinking Creek. One teacher in particular inspired her to become a teacher. So she worked, saved money, and went to college to become a teacher. Bonnie taught a total of 35 years. Bonnie first taught at Dewitt Elementary, under Principal Robert Messer. Mr. Messer often placed students who couldn't read very well in Bonnie's class because he knew that she could and would teach them to read. She so enjoyed working with disadvantaged students that she went back to school in the evenings, on Saturday, and in the summers and earned her special education degree in 1976. Bonnie taught special education at G.R. Hampton Elementary with Ruth Cole and was one of the first, if not the first, special education teachers in Knox County. In 1980, she became the Coordinator/Consultant of the Upper Cumberland River Special Education Cooperative. Bonnie served in this regional supervisory capacity for about four years before moving to Michigan with her husband Jack. For eleven years in Michigan, Bonnie taught severely handicapped students. Although very challenging due to the handicaps, Bonnie loved these students dearly. After returning to Knox County in 1995 to again teach in the Knox County School System at Girdler Elementary Bonnie would often visit this Michigan school and the students whom she taught. There was a special attachment to the students she taught. When hearing about Bonnie's death, Betty Mae Hodges, a highly skilled educator who had been assigned to Girdler several years ago said, "Yes, I remember Bonnie. I thought she did a good job with Special Education students ... really wanted them to learn. She was also very active in KEA, as I remember. I am really sorry to hear of this loss to Knox County." From 1995, until nineteen months before her death, Bonnie continued to work with students with disabilities. She served on many state, local and school committees. She served on many of the Kentucky Education State Committees, as a delegate to the National Education Association Conference many times, as Vice of the Knox County Education Association, and on many other county and school committes. Bonnie worked tirelessly on any duties that her position required. Beige Warren, KEA/UNISERV Director, said at her funeral, "Bonnie just didn't belong to these organizations, but she was active and involved in these organizations. She made things happen. If you wanted a job done, just give it to Bonnie, and I guarantee you, you didn't even have to check back to see if it was being done. She got the job done." Friend and co-worker Dennis Messer, also a special education teacher, learned so much from this experienced teacher. He said, "Bonnie was a good teacher, and she wanted to be sure that I was one too." As a beginning teacher, Bonnie mentored and befriended him as she had others before him. Bonnie was always involved with her church. When at Salt Gum Baptist Church, she organized the WMU and served as church clerk. At Locust Grove, she was a regular contributing member of the Ladies Sunday School Class and of both the WMU at the church and in the association. Pastor David Barnard quoted Phillipians 4:8 as a good portrayl of Bonnie-trust, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report-and cited examples in her life of each quality mentioned. Even in her time of sickness, Bonnie continued to want to serve others. She sent her tithes to church, called members who were sick, encouraged her Sunday School teacher, kept up with the Kentucky Education Association issues, and offered to help in any way that she could from her home. Mary Helen Barnes worked with Bonnie for many years as a co-worker and a friend. She summed up her feelings, which are also the feelings of many others, as follows, "In this life, we are privileged to meet and know many people and sometimes we get the opportunity to be friends with someone very special. I got that opportunity with Bonnie and from the beginning she felt like a kindred spirit. Bonnie was the kind of person I aspire to be. She always made me feel good about myself and she made me want to be a better person. In all areas of her life, professional, personal, and spiritual, she had such integrity-she always wanted everything done the right way, the honest way, and she gave 100 % to whatever she did. I looked up to her in awe and great respect." Best friend Claudia Greenwood summed up her feelings as quoted from an old proverb, "Some people come into our lives and quietly go, others stay for a while, leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same." Claudia believes Bonnie to be one of the three true friends that a person has in a lifetime. Knox County will not be the same because a dear friend of so many is gone. Pastor David Barnard told of heaven's gain as he quoted the Bible to say "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Bonnie was a saint sent from God to touch so many. She will be sorely missed."


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