The Curry Coastal Pilot

On April 28, in a tragic accident, Heather Bonser-Bishop, of Gold Beach, drowned while paddleboarding with her family on the Chetco River.

Heather's deep love and commitment to her family, friends, and community will be her legacy to all of the many lives she touched.

Heather, a sixth generation California girl, was born Feb. 23, 1973, in Sacramento to Cathy Butts Bonser and Gordon L. Bonser. Heather's passions were many: the foremost being her family and the work she loved in rural healthcare. She will always be remembered as a Renaissance woman who raised chickens and goats, made felt for homemade slippers, sewed her children's clothes, and had an abiding love of opera and Elvis.

As a young girl, she excelled at academics and found joy in intellectual competition, and that never changed throughout her life. She swam the cold waters west of Lake Tahoe, in the abundant rivers and creeks flowing to the American River, and roamed Sierra Nevada trails hand in hand with her sister, Lainey Bonser McDonald, who adored her sissy. Her father and mother used the complex natural history of the lands around Placerville, Calif., and Northern California as a classroom to engage the sisters in all the world has to offer, and to value the importance of protecting this world and helping the people who live in it. Heather was a brilliant woman who possessed the drive to achieve the potential of that brilliance.

Having just turned 17, Heather graduated from El Dorado High School in Placerville. She went on to earn her bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, Texas, on a full scholarship, then continued with a Rotary International Scholarship to Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand where she earned a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) degree. She obtained a master's degree in Business Administration from California State University Humboldt, by the age of 24. Heather was a Red Cross of Humboldt 2005 Public Health Hero for her work with harm prevention. In 2006, the Community Member of the Year award from Humboldt State University School of Business was granted to her, followed the next year by a 2007 Rural Health Fellow of the National Rural Health Association. In her professional life, Heather was passionate in her devotion to help increase access to health and human services for people of all economic levels. Regionally and nationally recognized as an expert in rural health, Heather served seven years as executive director of the North Coast Clinics Network (NCCN), a regional nonprofit trade association of Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity county community health centers in California. Subsequently, she started her own consulting business.

Heather was a world citizen and a world traveler. She was a vibrant part of the community of Trinidad, Calif., where she and her family lived for many years and where she sat on the school board. The last few years she was active near their home in Gold Beach, where she taught 4-H classes and was involved in teaching sustainable living.

Heather is survived by her husband John Wendell Bishop; her children Greta Grace Corrine Bishop and Elia Laina Honore Bishop; her mother and father Cathy Butts Bonser and Gordon L. Bonser; her grandmother Loellen Rocca Bonser; her sister and brother-in-law Lainey Bonser McDonald and Max Keyes; Lainey's children William McDonald and Harrison McDonald. She also leaves behind her brother-in-law Clark Bishop and his wife Heather and their two children Shenae and Wohali Bishop; sister-in-law Maria Bishop and her son Nick. Also surviving are many cousins who will miss her.

She was preceded in death by her grandmother Edith Laine Butts; mother-in-law Katherine Anne Wilson; grandfather Quentin Bonser.

A Celebration of Heather's Life will be from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 24 Fellowship Way in Bayside, Calif.

Cards may be directed to the family at 1085 Pacific Avenue, Crescent City, CA 95531. For those who wish to honor Heather, the family suggests tax-deductible donations for her children's education to the Heather Bonser-Bishop Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Heather Bonser-Bishop Children, P.O. Box 966 Eureka, CA 95502.

Condolences may be expressed online at

Submitted by Redwood Memorial Chapel.