Bonnie Eleen Noland


Bonnie Eleen Noland was my mother and was born in 1921 and died in 2011 at the age of 89.

Her married names were Swartz and then Durham.

Of my grandmother, my mother's mother, I have written: ". . . she was a rock - strong willed, very conscious of what she was doing, insistent that things be done right and satisfied with her life . . . Her most important activity was her church and her attitudes were based on her strong religious beliefs." I must say that that I would describe my mother identically.

Furthermore, as you will see after reading this entire post, that she had to deal with many stressful times due to my father's inability to provide for our family adequately. Yet, due to her determination, diligence and hard work, she persevered. I am eternally grateful for the many opportunities that she presented to me that allowed me to become an educated and modestly successful person. She seemed always ready to work through difficulties and ready to take advantage of opportunities as they occurred.

My mother was the first of two daughters whose parents were Frank and Bertha Wurth Noland. She had a younger sister named Beverly. They grew up in the Paseo High School area of Kansas City, Missouri. The school was near 47th and Paseo in Kansas City. The school that was there during their youth no longer exists having been replaced by a newer structure a few years ago, however.

I know little of my mother's childhood though much of it was during the Great Depression. Luckily, I think, they were spared the worst of that time by the fact that their father had a job with the streetcar company. With transportation being essential for people to get around, that had to be a good job for the times. See my post about him for further information.

One thing that I do recall my mother telling me about was that her family would get together and sing songs together. They owned a piano and, I think, they all knew how to play it. They actually home recorded some of their songs and I will try to rip the songs from the recordings and post them to this website. I, also, recall that one of the songs that my mother would remember was called something like "A Shanty in Old Shanty Town".

Bonnie did go to Paseo High School. The school year book shows that her main (perhaps only) extracurricular activity was the Acapella Choir.

Out of high school she enrolled in a business college and learned to be a very good secretary. She knew shorthand and was a very good typist. Throughout the years she landed some very good secretarial jobs. Before her marriage, she worked for Hallmark Cards and for a company owned by Clyde Nichols, son of J. C. Nichols. I am probably missing some of her jobs, but when we lived near Alexandria, Minnesota, she worked for that city. In Springfield, she worked for Allis-Chalmers. In Atlantic, Iowa, she worked for a nearby grain company. In Omaha, Nebraska, she worked for a attorney who was the secretary of the local branch of the National Education Association. In that job, her employer was engaged in building buildings for retired teachers and about the time we left Omaha, I understand that she was slated to take over the management of one of the buildings under construction.

The best job that she had, from my standpoint, was in Kansas City where she became the sectretary to Miller Nichols, president of the J. C. Nichols Company which, at that time, owned the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. She held that position throughout the 1960s and into the beginnings of the 1970s. This job was significant to me and my brothers in that Mr. Nichols was kind enough to allow us to work for his company during the summer and at Christmas vacations which in turn allowed us to go to college, something that was always expected to happen but for which no money had been set aside. Contacts that she made in that position in turn became contacts for me when I wanted to go to law school, start my printing company and later go to work for the State of Missouri.

In 1963, I believe, my mother divorced my father. She finally refused to tolerate his inability to provide for our family and, I think, that she probably was making enough money to support herself without any assistance. Besides, I and at least one of my brothers were making it on our own going to college, thanks to our jobs at the Nichols Company. Actually, when the Nichols Company's operations changed in 1963, I believe, she helped get me a job with the Kansas City Star given that I was majoring in journalism and later when I started a printing company, she assisted me in getting printing customers.

One important activity that she engaged in was the Women's Philharmonic Association. Miller Nichols was major benefactor of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra and given my mother's interest in music, involvement in supporting the orchestra was a natural. At one point, she served as president of the Women's Philharmonic Association.

My mother remained single for several years, but then she met J. Delmont Durham who was going to the same church as she was - the Village Presbyterian Church. Del, as he preferred to be called, I believe, had been recently widowed and owned a organ that he was trying to sell. Somehow the negotiations in regard to the organ between he and my mother turned into an agreement to marry. Del was a mechanical engineer who was a superintendent of a department at Armco Steel that made nuts, bolts and nails, I believe, so he was an intelligent and successful man who was about my mother's age. They married in my mother's apartment.

Del, also, was a gentleman farmer who owned farmland in Cass County, Missouri. I think that this was very good for my mother as she was able to get exercise and engage in activities that living in an apartment in the city just do not happen. They both retired at about the same time and were then able to travel around the country and world.

Del eventually sold much of his farmland but they retained about 40 acres on which he and my mother built an earth-contact house. This house was eventually purchased by my bother and he, his wife and one son's family now reside in the house and half of the property. The other half was purchased by my other brother which was inherited by his wife when he died.

As they got older, they purchased an apartment overlooking the Plaza which my mother loved. She especially loved to have our family there on Thanksgiving to watch the Christmas Lighting Ceremony on the Country Club Plaza. Later, they purchased a condo in south Leawood which was the last place in which they both lived. In 2005 they decided to move to an assisted living place in Johnson County, Kansas. Unfortunately, Del died just before they were to move, so my mother lived there by herself, though, of course, there were a large number of persons of similar age in the units with whom she assocaiated.

After moving to assisted living, my mother lived in two more assisted living places, each providing an increased amount of care. Unfortunately, she died on January 11, 2011, after falling and sustaining a stroke and broken leg. She and Del had both decided to be cremated and some of their ashes were spread on the last property they owned in Cass County. That property had been made into a grass airplane landing strip by Del as he had been a hobbyist airplane pilot. The property is still owned by my brother. Once both had died, some of their ashes were combined in an urn and buried in a cemetary in Johnson County, Kansas, where her sister and brother-in-law are interned.

For her funeral, we had a very nice ceremony at the Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. I gave an obituary. As soon as I locate it, I hope to post the text of the obituary as I wrote it, though I may have deviated slightly from it when I read it.

Last revised on October 16, 2023.