It seems fitting to celebrate at Van Vleck House and Gardens, a venue with a rich history, since we are honoring a family with such a rich legacy of their own. The Bonsal family's commitment to the town of Montclair and to the Montclair Scholarship Fund is a long and enduring one.
In 1945 Montclair residents Jennie and Alonzo Bonsal established the Alonzo F. and Jennie W. Bonsal Foundation. Both of them were deeply committed to the Montclair community in a wide variety of ways. Most local residents are familiar with the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve — but Jennie was also the acting curator of the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, she served as a trustee of the Montclair Public Library for 15 years and, perhaps most notably, Jennie and her family also gifted the Bonsal Coronary Care Unit to Mountainside hospital in memory of her husband.
In 1975 the Bonsal Foundation donated two $500 scholarships to the Montclair Scholarship Fund and thus began a long relationship continuing the education of Montclair high school students. As tuitions have risen over the years, the Bonsal scholarships have also increased. For ten years the Bonsal scholarship was a $500-$1,000 scholarship awarded to several students for their first year of college. Subsequently, the Bonsal Foundation began giving a scholarship for four years, increasing the amount as college costs continued to rise. Finally, in 2010, the Bonsal Foundation gifted $128,000 for (4) four-year scholarships of $8,000 awarded to four students for four consecutive years.
Jennie and Alonzo Bonsal's three children, Richard Bonsal, Margaret Bonsal Soleau and Carol Bonsal Johnson Bald, attended Montclair High School and grew to become as passionate as their parents about education and volunteerism in their communities. Dick Bonsal was, among many other things, the Town Commissioner and Deputy Mayor in Montclair as well as a volunteer on the Board of School Estimate. Margaret and Carol were both members, directors and officers of the Bonsal Foundation.
Carol Bonsal Johnson Bald earned a Masters degree in education from Columbia University and was also a trustee for many years at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. She has four children (Lawrence, Stephen, Gregory and Lynda) and nine grandchildren.
Margaret also has four children (David, Carol, Jeffrey and William) and has four grandchildren. Margaret taught art to school children, led guided tours in a wildlife center and brought birds into inner-city classrooms in a "capture and release" education program. Her husband, John, is a reverend.
Richard Bonsal's three daughters, Sarah Bonsal Miller, Martha Bonsal Day, and Julia L Bonsal, Esq, continue their family's legacy of commitment to volunteerism and to the Montclair Scholarship Fund to this day. This year they have created a scholarship in memory of their father, the Richard I. Bonsal scholarship, awarded to a Montclair High School senior, for academic achievement and interest in the pursuit of knowledge and for high standards of integrity and concern for the rights of others.
Martha Bonsal Day and her husband, H Neal, raised their two children in Montclair and have been members of The Montclair Foundation, elders at Central Presbyterian Church and members of the singing groups the "Foggy-Minded Boys" and the "Foggettes" that offer free entertainment for not-for-profits in the Montclair area. Their daughter, Heather, is a teacher and their son, Neal, works at Jazz House Kids in Montclair.
Julia L. Bonsal was a member, director and officer of the Bonsal Foundation and is an attorney who is currently Of Counsel at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. in Newark, NJ.
Sarah Bonsal Miller and her husband, James, a cardiothoracic surgeon, live in Kansas City, MO. They have five children and one granddaughter. Sarah is an assistant second grade teacher and has been involved in many school, civic, and youth athletic organizations. She is currently on the Jackson County Republican Committee and is a Committeewoman on the Missouri Republican State Committee. She ran for the Missouri State House in 2010 and 2012.
Over the years the Bonsal Family has donated over $250,000 worth of scholarships. Maragaret Soleau Bonsal noted that her parents, Jennie and Alonzo, "believed very strongly in the value of education as central to personal and career success and they encouraged and supported education over many years."
It is with extreme gratitude that we plan to honor the following members of the Bonsal Family:
Carol Bonsal Johnson Bald
Julia Bonsal, Esq
Martha Bonsal Day
H. Neal Day
Neal Bonsal Day
Lawrence Philip Johnson, MD
Stephen Bonsal Johnson, Esq
Lynda Johnson Miller
Gregory Kent Johnson, MD
Ellen Johnson, MD