Mackinac Island lost two of its most precious people last week. Bonnie and Don Foltz, who have summered here for over two decades as caretakers for one of the Island cottages, returned to their winter home downstate and are settling into watching their grandchildren play sports and reconnecting with friends there. When they return to the Island in years to come, they will come as vacationers. They will stay with any number of friends who have already invited them and will relax, eat out, bicycle, and walk the trails of Mackinac, as the thousands who come here each year do.
Bonnie is one of those people who looks you straight in the eyes, smiles, and suddenly you know she’s going to be your friend. At Little Stone Church, she was the first person up and out of her seat each Sunday after services – welcoming visitors and chatting with friends in that special “Bonnie voice” – quiet, warm, always full of joy. She has a way of listening to what you say – not just with her ears, but with her whole heart. Some little tidbit of concern you might mention to her one week will be prayed over and asked about the next time she sees you. She never takes your concerns lightly – they affect her, and she cares.
Although Ted knows Don better than I, his personality and character are much the same as Bonnie’s. As a couple, their love for each other is evident to all. Their wit with each other is quick, but always kind, and it is obvious they enjoy each other tremendously.
The joyfulness with which they went about their after-retirement “second careers” as caretakers was evident in the pride they took in the home and gardens they tended. Don, who knew nothing about flowers when he first came to Mackinac, became a master gardener. He and Bonnie planted, watered, and loved every plant and flower into perfection, and the gardens they created are some of the most beautiful on the Island.
Don and a friend or two would ride their bikes up to Surrey Hill every morning for fresh donuts and coffee. You could set your watch by them. They’d sit inside in bad weather, but most days you could find them at a table outside – just two or three men friends, bonding over breakfast. Ted joined them occasionally. It was a great group.
Whenever I’d go visit MacGyver the horse, I walked right by their place. The door was always open in welcome, and sometimes I’d stop and yell through the screen door. If they weren’t busy, Bonnie or Don (or both) would come out and visit a few minutes. One of their favorite things to do was show off the chipmunks they could hand feed – especially Charlie, who would clamor onto their hands, fill his cheeks with nuts, then high-tail it back to the chipmunk pantry to stock it for the winter.
There are many, many folks on the Island who knew them much longer than I, but with these two, longevity is just a word. They cared for everyone, they were friends to everyone, they nurtured everyone.
After two long and fulfilling careers – one of which brought them to this Island – they reached the time when they felt permanent roots needed to be planted back in one spot – close to children and grandchildren – and we all certainly understand that. We all know how much friendships mean, but our families are what make us who we are, and if we are fortunate, it is to our families that we ultimately all return.
Bonnie and Don – your friends here on Mackinac Island will miss you dearly. We wish for you many, many years of watching your grandchildren grow up, hanging out with your hometown friends, and relaxing whenever the mood strikes. We want you back here whenever you can visit, and you know many doors will swing wide to welcome you in. We know your love for this place and its people will not diminish just because you won’t be here full-time in the summer, but already the island seems diminished because you aren’t here.
You took pieces of our hearts with you when you left, and the Island will not be the same without you. We love you. God bless.