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Love, Butter, Sugar

Goodbye Miss Bonnie

Even though I thought I was prepared, I wasn’t really ready to say goodbye to our Ms. Bonnie.  This beautiful, funny, talented, kind and loving woman has been a part of our family for over forty years and now she is gone.
There is no one like Bonnie.

I remember the day I first met her. I was the General Manager of the Red Lion Restaurant, owned and operated by my father in law, George Crowder. We were in need of a chef at the Lion and we had discretely put the word out amongst the trade that we were looking for someone to run the kitchen.

Our longtime friend and purveyor of the finest prime rib in the state, Helmut, said that he had just the person for us. We would love her. “Her??”  said I, in shock. “Helmut, you know that George will never go for a woman in the kitchen.”  “Trust me.” said Helmut.
“Mr. Crowder will love her.”

So, after the initial shock of suggesting that a woman be considered to run the kitchen, and one without any meat cutting experience at that, wore off, Mr. Crowder decided to “give her a go.”  That was the beginning of our long and beautiful relationship.

I used to laugh out loud when Bonnie would refer to me or George as her “bosses.”  Bonnie didn’t have a boss. Bonnie was the boss.

You would know that you were about to be charmed into doing something that you really didn’t want to do when you heard, “Darlin’ will you….” and whatever she asked, we did. When she would arch that eyebrow and give the “look,” well things happened. And fast.

When Michael was a little boy, Bonnie would spoil him rotten, making him anything he wanted to eat. She would let him go into the kitchen and nick a cheddar cheese stick and a glass of mousse, dipping the cheese into the mousse as if it were a spoon…yeah, that was a thing.  I looked everywhere for a picture of her holding him when he was a little fella, but I had to settle for  one of him hugging her after she pulled off another perfect New Year’s Eve dinner at the Duck.

When the Lion closed and Bonnie moved over to the Duck full time we felt like the luckiest people in the world. And we were.  With Bonnie at the helm in the kitchen, we could concentrate on other parts of the business.  She did the ordering, the planning, the scheduling. She could whip up a dish just by looking at a picture.  If you loved one of her “specials” and asked her for her secret ingredient she would tell you “love” which, I am sure was true, but it was also very likely that the secret ingredients would have been butter and sugar as well.

Bonnie’s husband Leroy (or Laconie as the Emanuel clan calls him) has been married to Bonnie for close to 60 years I believe.  Bonnie could never convince Leroy to join her for any of the Duck employee Christmas parties until one year she told me about how he loved to shoot craps.  He started playing when he was in the Navy as a young man and earned the nickname “The Bone Man” and the promise of craps game was the one sure way she could cajole him into going out for some fun.

So, that was the year that we changed our company party from a fancy dinner at some fancy restaurant and started having it at home. We built a craps table and bought some dice. Casino night!   Bonnie was so tickled because every year after that Leroy would start asking her what day the company party was. He wanted to be sure that it was marked on the calendar…because he didn’t want her to miss her party. Leroy always won the craps tournaments (do you call them tournaments, I don’t know) which meant that he got his pick of the prizes and every single year he would say, “Nah, you let someone else have those prizes. I just like to play.”

The last time that we spoke with Bonnie was at Christmas. She was laughing and happy and asking after everyone. She wanted to know how her “boys” in the kitchen were doing. Were they putting plenty of chicken in the pot pie. Was everyone staying healthy and behaving themselves. She asked after everyone in our family.  And the Duck family.  She didn’t forget any of us.

And we will never forget her.  We will miss you Bonnie. More than we can say. There will never be another like you.

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