Gordon Bonser: ‘In Death, as in Life, He Swims With Salmon

This section includes both obituaries and memories. Honoring our loved ones who have died does not end immediately after their passing. We recognize that… so we’re extending our obituary section to include individuals who may have left a long time ago. If you want to remember someone who is gone, either recently or longer ago, please send a photo and a few sentences to mskymkemp@gmail.com.

Gordon Llewellyn Bonser,Gordon Llewellyn Bonser, champion of the natural world and its processes, was born May 13, 1950 and died December 20, 2018 in his home in McKinleyville. He was with his wife, Cathy Bonser, when the ravages of cancer ended his life.

Gordon was born in San Francisco to Quentin and Loellen Bonser, but spent most of his youth in Placerville, California where he met Cathy while attending El Dorado High School. Gordon was an athlete, the captain of the high school swim team and participated in other sports, but his focus was music and the cultural and natural world, interests shared by his life-long best friend Michael Rhodes. Gordon attended college at the University of Oregon, U.C. Berkeley and Humboldt State University where he completed his work for a Master’s Degree in Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis. During his 20s and 30s he developed his athletic life as a wildland forest fire fighter jumping from helicopters and as a member of the elite Redding Hot Shots. Between education and fire assignments his passion was long-distance bicycle adventure. He owned a successful mountain bicycle store in Pollock Pines and Cameron Park, California, before he thought it important to return to school to learn a craft which would visually prove to the world via maps the changes taking place which could be corrected by human interaction. He was vitally connected to the geography and culture of the planet and determined to carefully explain any questions to friends and family who turned to him for clarity. His degree in landscape planning gave him the vocabulary and tools needed to respond to many planned public land projects. He worked for many land protectors, most notably U.S. Forest Service and Geographic Survey and local colleges where he taught computer and mapping skills.

Gordon is survived by his wife Cathy, with whom he shared his wit, knowledge and enduring love for 35 years. His daughter Lainey Bonser Gritts and her husband Billy Gritts, son-in-law John Bishop, grandchildren Greta Grace and Elia Laina Bishop, William and Harrison McDonald and Danika Gritts; mother, Loellen Rocca Bonser; sisters Patricia Bonser Sanford (Marty), Carol Gunter (Ernie) and brother Wayne Bonser also live on to remember Gordon. Gordon and Cathy’s daughter Heather Liberty Colleen Bonser-Bishop preceded him in death in 2012.

Remembrances may be made in his honor to Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC – www.wildcalifornia.org), a nonprofit land advocate Gordon supported for decades. Gordon lived to speak for the trees and in death, as in life, he swims with salmon.




  • Nice. This is the first obit to which I have responded. He sounds like a great guy.

    I too planned on GIS Masters but the crazy Geography profs at HSU ruined that for me. They must have been more professional in his day.

    I hope he has indeed gone back to nature and enjoying a spiritual joy in the afterlife.

    Condolences to his family. I’m sure he will be missed.

    • Funny thing is he finished his thesis then decided that a piece of paper didn’t dictate his knowledge and never turned it in. He went thru the effort and work and reviews, not to mention schooling and years of classes, but knew what was important and decided his knowledge was above all of the utmost importance. Amazing man indeed. Had you learned in his class you’d have learned way more than you’d ever imagined!

  • Gordon was an irrepressible, vital spirit, full of wit, and brave through many difficult times. I knew him for 20 years and was always fascinated by his wit, joy for life, intelligence, and compassion. He is gone far too soon, but will never be forgotten by those of us who knew and loved him. My heart goes out to his family, who he loved and by whom he was so truly loved in return.

    • You’ve been more than amazing to all of us and we are better for having you in our lives. All our love to you and Ellen; Cindy and Mike. Thank you for choosing us!

    • Thank you, Luther (and everyone). The kind words soothe the raw edges of my sorrow for missing my best friend and life-mate. He was kind (a sweeter husband never lived), but so fierce against injustice in the world. He made a difference.

  • I will pray for his widow
    It’s such a difficult journey
    Sounds like they were each other’s
    soul mates😢❤️

  • Geordie was my neighbor and a friend for many years. Tarn master rest in piece! Atson

    • What interesting stories Gordon shared about the period you were neighbors. Thank you for your friendship.

      • Gordon was always one of my favorite people. He bought his old farm house on Old Arcata and moved into a totally hippie neighborhood. He had an extronary mind and was always the best person I knew to debate various parts of life. He drank the strongest coffee I have ever seen in my life. I can’t say Gordy was a hippie but he was comfortable around them. I remember when he had a friend stay in his house while he was firefighting. The deal was the friend would work on the house for a free place to live. When Gordie got back after 4 mouths his friend had built a really nice hardwood toilet paper holder. Such were hippies. I can’t count how many time he and I would go down and pull people out of crashed turned over cars in front of our houses. Our carve was referred to as deadman’s curve for a good reason. I haven’t seen Gordy for a long time but will still miss is life force being on the planet. I remember when my future wife/old lady moved into his house with a bunch of hippie students. She had wrecked her bike and he fixed it for her with his own money. Could anything better be said about a person….. We will all miss him. Just be glad we had him as long as we did. I hope for the best for you and your family. What ever goes on in the cosmos I know he is in the best part. Atson

  • Gordy was a pleasure to interact with in the bicycling community.

  • Happy trails dear cousin – I remember many fun summers together as kids in the Sierra, playing in nature. I regret not knowing Gordy as well in later life. Thanks for the wonderful obit – I learned so much I didn’t know, how much he contributed, the depths of his character. Thank you…

  • He always spoke of Dan and Stewie as favorite cousins. I think the last time we visited was when Gram died. Surviving the mudslide together must have created a bond. Thank you for the nice response.

  • Kathy Petersen Trumbly

    So sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with his family and friends. A lot of wonderful memories.

  • I am truly saddened to hear of Gordon’s passing. My families condolences go out to our Northern California family.

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