Bonnie Mae Van Schaick was a retired Registered Nurse (RN) whose nursing career spanned 60 years. She was born to mother Vera Evelyn (Gregory) and father James Walter, a railroad family, on October 2, 1930 in Vayland, South Dakota. Her father was a telegrapher/agent for the C&NW Railroad. After completing high school in 1948 in Tracy, Minnesota, she entered the Kahler Hospitals School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic. After completing her studies and passing exams in 1951 to receive her RN license, she began her career as a surgical scrub nurse for 2 years at the Colonial Hospital where she worked alongside Mayo Clinic surgeons. Bonnie was then a Staff Nurse for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Hospital at Red Lake, Minnesota for 9 years before moving on to the Seattle Veterans Hospital as a Staff Nurse. She was the evening Charge Nurse for a year at the Caroline Kline Galland Nursing home in Seattle, Washington.
After returning to Minnesota, Bonnie served in several hospitals where she was a Staff Nurse, a Head Nurse, or a Director of Nursing. She retired from full time nursing after 9 years as Head Nurse at the Red Lake United States Public Health Indian Hospital. She delivered over 400 babies and helped with many more; out of necessity, she learned to do Lab, X-ray, setting bones, casting, suturing, and even extracting teeth. Her son Jim was at that time beginning high school in Thief River Falls, and Bonnie worked part time at several health facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and California. She continued to provide volunteer nursing to her church in California and to health screening clinics until her return to Minnesota in 2005.
She was a volunteer nurse for several years at the Boy Scouts of America Camp Wilderness as well as many other District Scout outings. Her son Jim began Scouting as a Cub Scout, continued in Boy Scouts, and earned the Eagle Scout Rank at age 15. The award was presented by Lord Baden Powell, grandson of Scouting’s founder of the same name, at the World Boy Scout Jamboree near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bonnie was an active parent supporting Jim in Scouting as District and Assistant Council Commissioner and earned the Boy Scouts highest award for volunteers, the Silver Beaver Award.
Bonnie has traveled to many countries of the world for both nurses’ issues and also to “just see the world” as a tourist. A favorite trip of hers was to Australia where she developed many friendships and has returned to visit many times. Swimming with friends in the Great Barrier Reef was a thrilling experience. In Southern Australia on Phillip Island, she viewed the parade of the “Little Penguins” (formerly known as “Fairy Penguins”) found only on this one beach in the world. This was the fulfillment of a child’s dream—seeing the females return with fish from the Southern Ocean to feed their families. When she was very young, Bonnie’s grandmother showed her pictures of these penguins in the National Geographic magazine, which inspired her to learn, to seek knowledge, and to be bold, as she was about experiencing life. There were other trips Bonnie wanted to take, including to Antarctica and to a little town in Holland, Westbroek, where her ancestors lived before embarking on a move to North America in 1638.
“While living and working part time in California, I was a member of the Crystal Cathedral Community Church in Garden Grove, home of the Hour of Power on television. There I did volunteer work and enjoyed every minute of being a cast member in the Glory of Easter and the Glory of Christmas. It was at the Cathedral where I was made aware of a mission trip planned to plant vegetable gardens in Swaziland in southeast Africa.” She took one trip to Swaziland in 2005 where she saw the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children; she could not look away. Over the next eleven years, she would make 21 more trips to Swaziland. Her commitment was amplified as she pictured her own three grandchildren, Charlie, Ben, and Holly, and hoped someone would help them if they were in need of help in the absence of their parents, Jim and Kelly. Feeling she was led by God to “do something” about the orphaned children, she decided to use the skills she had learned throughout her life, to assist as she could, and to better the lives of children in Swaziland. Thus, a project to provide clean water, vegetable gardens, and later a primary school, became a not-for-profit company, Action Four Africa Swaziland.
Aside from her nursing career, she loved her family, who affectionately called her “Grandma Van.” She also loved hunting, fishing, woodworking, traveling, hiking in the US and around the world, meeting interesting people in work and in play, and of course, WATCHING THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS!
Bonnie is survived by her loving son, Jim (Kelly) Van Schaick of Thief River Falls, MN; grandchildren, Charles, Benjamin and Holly; niece, Kippy Parroni of Wisconsin; and many other relatives and friends. She is preceded in death by her parents; sister Ruth (Gary) Larson; and nephew, Kirk Larson.
Bonnie passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at Oakland Park Community in Thief River Falls with her loving family by her side at the age of 91 years, 1 month and 29 days. May her memory be blessed. Her family is grateful for the wonderful care provided by the staff at Oakland Park Communities during Bonnie’s 15 day stay.
Bonnie’s Celebration of Life will be held at 6:00 PM on Friday, December 10, 2021 at Epiphany Station in Thief River Falls, MN.