Bonnie Jean Bonetti-Bell, MA, M.Div. (aka Bonnie Bell) Jan. 20, 1945 – Nov. 20, 2019
With grace and courage, Bonnie succumbed to colon cancer the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 20th at home in Berkeley with her loving husband Jim, son Forrest, and daughter Emily holding her and praying with her as she took her last breath.
Bonnie Jean Bonetti was born and raised in Sacramento where she attended public schools. She was a proud graduate of McClatchy High School, class of 1962. Her father Elwin Bonetti was a prominent dentist in Sacramento and her mother Marjorie Bonetti was an opera singer, music teacher, and choral director.
Bonnie made an art of passionate friendships and continued to meet once or twice every year with at least five of her friends from kindergarten. Over 100 friends came to visit during her illness. Following studies at Sacramento City College and the University of Southern California, she earned her undergraduate degree in social work from Sacramento State University. After a few years of social work for Sacramento County, Bonnie followed her dream to live and work in San Francisco. She found a delightful apartment at the corner of Stockton and California Streets and enjoyed walking down to the Financial District to apply her excellent skills as a legal secretary.
While in San Francisco, Bonnie searched to find her calling as she worked temporary assignments at over 100 law firms. After years of spiritual exploration, she found her way to Old St. Mary’s where, much to her surprise, she converted to Catholicism and went on to enroll in a dual master’s program at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, an MA in Pastoral Counseling, and a Master of Divinity. For her clinical pastoral education requirement, she served as a chaplain at Napa State Hospital under the supervision of Chaplain Herman Eichorn. At long last, Bonnie was able to bring together her dual interests in psychology and religion, including the inter-relatedness of psychotic and spiritual or mystical experience. Her master’s thesis, The Religious Dimension in Psychosis: A Guide for Ministers, was accepted, printed, and bound in April of 1987.
In January 1980, Bonnie attended her first seminary class, Psyche and Spirit, where she met her future husband, Jim Bell. They began a friendship that developed into a romance, and they were married on Jan. 7, 1984 at St. Jerome Church in El Cerrito. Bonnie had already become a loving mother to Jim’s children Forrest, 9, and Emily, 5. Because they made each other bigger and better, Jim and Bonnie enjoyed a wonderful and loving 36-year marriage. Jim earned his masters of divinity from Thomas Starr King School for the Ministry right next door to Pacific School of Religion and began to follow his dream to integrate ministry into the business world of personal financial planning. Bonnie found her calling to integrate her ministry with career and life coaching; she established and operated two business, Key Concepts and Finding Your Way, for a number of years, and in December of 1990, Jim and Bonnie incorporated Bell Investment Advisors, which offers not only financial planning and investment management but career and life coaching as well, which was an innovation to the industry and served as a model for other firms.
Bonnie became a very popular speaker for the Women in Finance Association and founded the Women in Leadership program at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. At Bell Investment Advisors, she launched an ongoing Women’s Roundtable series. Jim and Bonnie led marriage preparation classes for 18 years at their parish, Newman Hall Holy Spirit in Berkeley. Bonnie was a founding board member and president of the Berkeley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless and served on the boards for Points of Light Ministries and James Toland Vocal Arts as well as serving on several Oakland Symphony gala committees. As a recovering alcoholic, Bonnie was very proud of her sobriety for over 30 years. She always enjoyed telling stories and celebrating sobriety with the staff at Delancey Street where her family bought Christmas trees. Together, Jim and Bonnie were and continue to be generous supporters of the Oakland Symphony, Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, Rebuilding Together Oakland, Oakland Rotary #3 Foundation, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Points of Light Ministries, and James Toland Vocal Arts, to name a few.
Bonnie was a prolific writer for her career and life coaching blog, Making a Good Life Happen at bellinvest.com; for the firm’s quarterly newsletter, The Opening Bell; and for the Making a Good Life Happen column in the Piedmont Post. To continue career and life coaching services at Bell, Bonnie found an experienced coach, Jane Micallef, who is now part of the Bell team.
Over the years, Bonnie shared her light and spirit with hundreds of her coaching clients and friends, and they brought their light back to her after learning of her illness. Bonnie is survived by her husband Jim; son Forrest; daughter Emily; sister Susan; nephew Mike; and niece Christine as well as three grandchildren Sofia (12), Nora (7), and Julian (6).
There will be a Valentine’s Day Memorial Mass, “Isn’t This a Beautiful Ending,” on Feb. 14 at 2 p.m., at The Cathedral of Christ the Light, (2121 Harrison Street, Oakland). Reception to follow at the cathedral. The family requests donations in Bonnie’s honor to Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Oakland Symphony, Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choirs, or Rebuilding Together Oakland.