Bonnie Banks Ashley passed away peacefully Wednesday, August 10, 2022 after a long and courageous battle against a rare form of cancer. At the time of her death, she was surrounded by family and her friend of over 50 years, Bonnie Lesnik. Bonnie was born to Preston and June Banks on April 28, 1948, in Atlanta, GA. She grew up in what was at the time the small, somewhat rural suburb of College Park where she attended public school, graduating in 1966 from Lakeshore High School. As a child, Bonnie has been described by family members as an extremely active, outgoing young lady, climbing trees, playing various sports, and bringing home stray animals. But during quiet hours, she was always to be seen with a book in hand, a habit that followed her throughout her life.
After high school, Bonnie began college at Georgia State University where see also had a part-time job in the school’s library. She met her future husband Joe while on the job. Two years later they were married and moved to Boulder, CO where Joe had been accepted into a graduate program at the University. While in Colorado, virtually every weekend they took off camping, fishing and exploring the spectacular local landscape. Bonnie also attended classes at CU and worked in the Chemistry Department as a part-time secretary. In 1971 Joe graduated and accepted an offer to teach in the Earth Sciences Department at Montana State University so they packed up belongings and their cat Sam and moved north.
Soon after arriving in Bozeman, Joe and Bonnie were blessed with a son, Jeff, who was born in Spring 1972. In her early years in Bozeman, Bonnie was involved in in the Faculty Wives Club and an organization known as BWAGS, for newly arrived female residents. She bowled and joined a book club, among several other activities, making numerous friends along the way. In 1974 she started classes again and began what would turn out to be a forty-year career at MSU. She started out as a part-time secretary and ended her working days as the University Registrar, along the way earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Traveling, antiquing, and watching her grandchildren’s sporting events were three of her favorite activities. Another favorite of hers was attending the annual state Corvette club meet from the early 1970’s until about 5 years ago. There she visited with friends and participated in auto-crossing with one of the many Corvettes they owned over the years.
Bonnie was preceded in death by her father Preston Banks. She is survived by her husband of 54 years Joe Ashley; her mother June Banks of Fayetteville, GA; her son Jeff Ashley (Tamara) of Helena, two grandchildren, Sarah Ashley and Ryan Ashley; her brother David (Mary) of Fayetteville, GA, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Bonnie’s family would like to thank Dr. Justin Thomas of Bozeman Health Cancer Center, Dr. Laura Davis of OSHU in Portland, OR, the staff of the Bozeman Health Emergency Room and Critical Care Unit, as well as the numerous friends and family that have supported her during her long and valiant battle.
A small, private memorial service was held on August 16, 2022 to celebrate Bonnie’s life.