Bonnie Swenson, 1951-2020

Published 1:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2020

Bonnie Lynn Swenson was born Jan. 16, 1951, to Earl and Aurel Swenson in Austin and passed away during the night at her home Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.

Bonnie Swenson

Bonnie was an adventurer. She joined the military when she was still a girl, acquiring top secret clearance at only 18 years of age. She traveled with the carnival, working her own Break 3 booth, on the county fair circuit. She rode a motorcycle. She drove a semi truck — probably one of few women to do so at the time. She loved Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt and Janis Ian and Kris Kristofferson, and most of all, Willie Nelson. The photo of her standing next to Willie was one of her most prized possessions. She had a pyrotechnic license, and for a number of years conducted fireworks displays for Fourth of July celebrations in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Bonnie, herself, was a firecracker of a woman, who believed women could — and should — do anything they wanted to do. She did. She was fiercely independent. She was also incredibly caring and compassionate. So when she saw a scruffy wet biker stalled on the side of the road in the rain, she had to stop to offer help and shelter. That’s how Bill Rasmussen became her husband, her soulmate and the love of her life.

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Bonnie and Bill loved riding and were members and officers of the Flatlanders Chapter of ABATE of Minnesota. The organization holds raffles twice a year, and in one of them Bonnie held the winning ticket for a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, a bit of a step up from Bill’s Knucklehead.

When Bonnie eventually settled into a “normal” job, her job was to help other people get jobs — young people, displaced people, people with learning disabilities, people with prison records and, perhaps her favorite, military veterans. Her compassion drove her career.

Bonnie made fast friends everywhere she went, whether it was southern Illinois, Colorado or anywhere else she called home. She was loyal and generous. She enjoyed baking and barbecuing. Another hobby was beading and she made intricate and beautiful Christmas ornaments. Socializing and playing cards at the Broken Spoke with neighbors was a common occurrence. Every week she looked forward to playful  but enthusiastic competition during Tuesday night trivia at Buckley’s in Walters, and this was the first Christmas in maybe 25 years that she didn’t make her famous homemade caramels and other treats and distribute them to every man, woman and child in Walters. She was a Walters icon.

Bonnie had a million freckles and sparkling blue eyes. When she learned of her illness, she colored her faded red hair bright purple (think Vikings) in defiance. She relished spirited debate. She said exactly what was on her mind, and then was not afraid to apologize when she crossed the line, as sometimes she did. She was bold that way.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bonnie lived and reveled in life and time with friends and loved ones for more than a year past her “expiration date” of pre-Christmas 2018. And so she left the world as she lived: On her terms, completely — like a boss.

Bonnie was preceded in death by her parents; her father-in-law, Duane Rasmussen; and her devoted husband, Bill, whom she adored and greatly missed.

Bonnie is survived by her mother-in-law, LaVonne Rasmussen; a sister, Betty (Bob) Peach; nephews Bobby and Gene; niece, Cheryl, whose visits she treasured; brothers-in-law Chris and Steve (Jacque) Rasmussen; cousins and many cherished friends.

Many thanks to Bonnie’s hospice team, and especially to Becky Akkerman, without whom Bonnie’s last year would have been much different.

Bonnie wanted a party and not a funeral. A date has not been determined. Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home in Wells is assisting the family. To leave an online condolence, visit