Robert L. Bonawitz

September 16, 1937 ~ January 4, 2020 (age 82)


Robert L. Bonawitz, 82 of Willmar, died Saturday, January 4, 2020 at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar.  Memorial services will be 2:00 p.m. Friday January 10, 2020 at the Willmar Assembly of God Church in Willmar.  Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at church. 

Bob was born September 16, 1937 in Fargo, ND. His parents were Raynold B. and Agatha (Wald) Bonawitz.  After graduating from Moorhead High School, he moved to the Twin Cities for college and work. He had extensive education with a BS (’59) and MA (‘60) in Industrial Education from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; and an MBA from University of St. Thomas (1981). He was a Learner throughout his life and continued his education in many ways by attending numerous Technical, legal and business courses from universities across the U.S.

Bob married his former wife, Karen Anderson of Benson, MN on December 26, 1957, and together they raised six children. On June 25, 1982, Bob married Donna Sather, of Willmar, MN. During their 37-year marriage, they resided in the Twin Cities and Willmar, MN.

Bob’s career embodied a wide variety of talents and ventures at the international, federal, state, and local levels through corporate, small-business and contract work.  At the international level he led many different projects on five continents.  At the federal level he was granted high   security access to work on a NASA project and lead an extensive project with the US Postal Service. He also negotiated the contractual arrangements related to the development of the thermo electric generator Neil Armstrong took to the moon to power the devices used to transmit data to earth.  At the state level he was Associate Director of Minnesota Zoological Garden and appointed by Governor Pawlenty for the Zoo Board. At the local level he served as an engineering administrator and worked on such projects as olaris/Poseidon submarine, F104, C5A and Apollo programs.  In the private sector he collaborated with tech, agriculture, education, and energy companies, and co-founded several companies, such as Orca, Inc., Obsidian, and Excel Consulting. His professional gifts extended into service. Bob showed his commitment to his country by signing in as a naval aviator in 1959 and then later serving in the National Guard. Bob was a member on multiple important clubs, committees and boards representing local and state needs. He served in numerous capacities with charitable, educational, governmental entities and his church; helping all ages across the generations, even after retiring. 

After retiring, Bob and Donna enjoyed traveling abroad and taking cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean. Many trips were taken to Minneapolis to be with his 6 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren with whom he loved spending time. He loved the relaxing time on trips up North to Tom and Jana’s cabin on Deer Lake. He encouraged his children in their professions and was always extremely proud of each of them. Bob loved playing tennis in Willmar where he made many wonderful friends. He and Donna were active members of the Willmar Assembly of God Church and long-time attendees of the Salt & Light Life Group.  He cherished the many lifelong friendships there.  An accomplishment he was so proud of was playing semi-pro football on the Fargo-Moorhead Liberty football team at age 70-71.  At age 76, he and his son Bobby went whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.  For over ten years, Bob and Donna wintered in Arizona.  In 2018 at a men’s Bible Study, it was impressed on Bob that he and Donna should move permanently to Arizona.  By the end of September, they were all settled in their new home in Buckeye, Arizona, awaiting many visits of friends and relatives from the North.  A highlight of living in Arizona was fun times spent with his brother Skip, his wife Merlene, uncle and cousin’s playing cards, storytelling and eating food they recalled from their childhood days.  Bob was very active in the Sun City Festival Tennis Club, playing 4-5 times a week with his many friends there.  He was involved in the Dirt Bags Bible Study, a home Bible Study and Current Events Club.  He and Donna attended the Church of Sun Valley at which he wholeheartedly supported Donna’s music involvement.  He had many friends who loved and cared for him.

Bob is survived by his wife Donna (Sather) and six of his children: Jana (Tom) Conlin of Apple Valley, Robert (Cindy) Hodges-Bonawitz of South St. Paul, Lisa Sass of Fayetteville, AR, Sara (Joel) Engel of Apple Valley, John (Keri) of Apple Valley, and Luke (Katie) of Shoreview; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, a brother Raynold J.“Skip” (Merlene) Bonawitz and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, an infant son, Allan; Karen (Anderson), the mother of their 7 children.


To send flowers to Robert's family, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
January 10, 2020

2:00 PM
Willmar Assembly of God
3821 Abbott Dr
Willmar, MN 56201

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