Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear Paul,

I already miss you so much.

I will miss the presence of you in this world.

The world was a better place with you in it.

I only came to know you in the last five years, but you so quickly gained my respect and admiration. I feel honored to have met a man like you.

I came to you in the purpose of editing your manuscript, and I am so grateful for the chance to have gotten to know you and learn about your life. How happy I was to see your manuscript finally published and your story told.

You were a man of true character and graciousness and wisdom.

To know all that you faced and the choices you made in very awful circumstances, it was humbling and inspiring. I will miss terribly receiving your e-mails and all your thoughtful insights.

You loved and lived powerfully and the impact of your spirit will stay with me for all my life, in all my decision-making and when I am facing tough times. I believe the experience of knowing you has already made me a better human being and mother.

We have all lost someone remarkable today and my heart aches. But, like many I'm certain, I will think of you often and smile. We didn't agree about heaven, but I believe if anyone is there, my friend, it is YOU.

Thank God for you, dear Paul.

It was a total honor,

Tara Smith
[Editor of But We Said "NO"]
Dear Paula -

Thank you for emailing us the news of Paul Bonart's passing. He and Bertha were was indeed like uncle and aunt to us. Paul played music with us in Rochester NY, giving me my first experience of playing in trios and quartets. He was there to chide and encourage me when I was terrified of violin recitals:"Whether you do well or poorly, Pat, the sun will shine again tomorrow!" These words seemed profound and gave humor to a seemingly dire situation. In the evenings, my grandmother, Ruth Gray Brodt, thundered on the piano, Paul on the violin, and Julie on the cello. Paul and Bertha were our heroes, they had escaped Nazi Germany and lived in Brazil, and cooked wonderful vegetarian meals - especially vegetable stew with dumplings.

Julie and I visited them in Berkeley, in the great hillside house with two great danes. Paul always enjoyed life, and was the master of the chateau. That same trip Julie and I visited Margaret Spence in Bisbee, and loved her right away. We were very glad she was there for Paul later on - they were old friends, and Paul went right on living a long and generous life, always cheering and brilliant and kind to his many friends.

Thank you Paula for contacting the friends and family,

Patricia deGogorza Gahagan
I had the pleasure of meeting Paul and Bertha--his first wife--almost 30 years ago through my painting professor, Patricia Walsh, about house-sitting for them while they made their journey back to Germany to visit old friends and relatives. I spent perhaps a month with them at their house in Calistoga before they left and experienced a summer I will always remember, a summer of music, art, swimming, table tennis, picking plums, pollinating cherry tomatoes with a brush, and dogs (Tiffy and Terry). And of course, conversations about the world, politics, art, Brazilian food, TV soap operas, science--everything under the sun was a topic. I will always remember how Paul would rehearse his viola and he would wear his tuxedo before a performance--his tux was probably not new, but that did not matter; he looked fantastic! They had two cars, one was a large domestic sedan, and the other was a very old Ford T-Bird, which probably burned a quart of oil just to get to St. Helena, a few miles away! It was the only car at that time in which he could fit! We bought food at the 7th Day Adventists co-op, vegetarian, when we could, and they eagerly introduced me to the world of pressure cooking.

I gladly repeated the house-sitting for them the following summer so they could return to Brazil.

I will always remember Paul for his intelligence, his humor, his insight, and his quick thinking. He was kind, and generous, and always genuinely glad to see friends. I will greatly miss him and his unmistakable voice. He taught me so much....

Thank you, Paul.

Stuart Nakamura
Dear friends,

We were saddened to hear of the passing of our dear lifelong friend Paul Bonart. I knew Paul and his first wife Bertha in Berkeley, California. At that time I was only 10 years old, so we have known eachother and our families for over 55 years. His dear wife Margaret, a loving friend, companion and wonderful wife we will miss too as she brought Paul so much joy after the sad time of losing Bertha with whom he had so many wonderful years in Brazil.

My mother, Barbara Money and my father, Theodore (Ted) Money were also dear friends of Paul and Bertha and subsequently dear friends with Margaret too. Paul passed away on the day (March 13th), my father's birthday. My mother, Barbara was a classical pianist for over 75 years and she and Paul used to play music together, My mother on a grand piano and Paul on his viola. I have over 14 hours of tapes of them practicing Mozart, Bach, Brahms and Bethoven together..such a wonderful time for all.

We will miss Paul very much as he was so much a part of our lives. Back in 1968, My son Daniel Pimpan (age 6 months) and I used to drive over to Calistoga to be with Paul and Bertha and Paul's beautiful german shepherd dog "Mano" used to watch over Daniel. A few months ago I sent Paul a photograph of Daniel and Mano standing together, Daniel with his baby bottle and Mano looking mellow and handsome.

God bless you all and may you find comfort in knowing that Paul will never be forgotten. He was brave, innovative, ethical and kind and had a wonderful sense of humor. We will miss him.

With love from us all here in St. Helena,

Lydia Money-Cushing, Raymond Cushing and love from my son Daniel Pimpan (now age 41) his wife Kathryn and my grandson, Caspian Pimpan (age 6).
To the Family of Mr Paul Bonart,

Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of Mr Paul Bonart.

Though I never met this special, sensitive and cultivated person, we corresponded often and somehow the sehnsucht, perspective, tempered optimism he was able to convey provided me with a deep inspiration as I face the challenges of working in contemporary Europe.

It is with regret that our physical paths were never able to cross, but if one has the rare privilege of knowing someone though their spirit and soul, as Mr Bonart allowed me to do, one appreciates this way of meeting a person as the greatest honor of all.

With my deepest sympathies and profound regrets,

Kent Nagano

GMD - Bayerische Staatsoper und Staatsorchester
Dear Chris and Helga and Paula:

Mary and I are deeply saddened by this news. For us, Paul is one of those indestructible forces of nature, and it is something of an illogical shock to know that he is no longer with us bodily. It should not come as a surprise to know that at 97 he has reached the end that awaits us all; but for us, Paul and Margaret and Harold and Bertha are such an integral part of our past that they will remain with us as treasured, living, vibrant components of whatever makes us what we are today.

It wasn't more than two days ago that Paul and we were exchanging e-mails with "the latest joke" or grumblings about the state of 21st century America or some bit of graphic interest back and forth from Connecticut to California.

When we last visited Paul and Margaret about five years ago, it was clear that time had taken its toll on Margaret; but Paul's mind was as sharp as the mind of that Paul we first knew in Brazil back in the mid-1950s, and that added to the illusion of invincibility. We are so thankful that Paul made a public record of his remarkable life in his important book so that a little-known slice of the history of Europe in the 20th century can be saved.

We will miss him, as you all will.

Here are some photos we thought might be of interest...

Paul and Margaret

Paul and Margaret Wedding.

Our wedding picture in Brazil, 1954. Harold and Barbara are in the back row.

[Paula's Note: This message is from Rod and Mary, friends in Connecticut who are the source of many of Paul's forwarded e-mails. They met my grandparents in Brazil in the 50's, and through them got to know Paul and Bertha. The continued to communicate through the years and have agreed to put me on their e-mailing list in Paul's place . . . so I can keep getting those great e-mails and forward them to more friends!]

"You will be always in our hearts"


Barbara, Patrícia, Gilberto, Valéria, Matheus, Lucas, Manuela e Marianna
[Paula's Cousins Patrícia and Valéria, and their families in Brazil]
Dear Helga and Chris,
[Paula's Parents, Chris is Margaret's Son]

How very blessed you are to have had these years with Paul and Margaret near you and to be able to call them family. I so often boasted to just know them as friends and clients.

Paul will forever be in my memory as a gentle soul, a huge lover and a gifted storyteller. My intuition tells me that death is a passage to a new jouney. I like to think Paul and Margaret as both catching up with old friends and overflowing with laughter, joy and love.

Both of them contributed so much to our world in the ways of goodness and beauty. I have missed Margaret and now will certainly miss Paul immensely.

May your family find comfort in this time,


Renee Banchiere
As Berkeley neighbors and friends of Paul we are so very sorry to hear of his passing but we rejoice in our many memories of him and we are so happy that he was able to finish his book which we have passed on to other friends. Interestingly, we are reading "The Orientalist" right now and were speaking of Paul just yesterday and thinking that we would ask him if he had read it and, if so, what he thought about it. We valued his opinion. He was an important part of our lives and we will remember him always. He lived a full and important life and he mattered, which is a model to each of us. Our sympathy to his family.


Janet and David Peoples

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I was a very privileged, and now very saddened friend of Paul Bonart whom I met in Berkeley, CA in 1990. I am a violinist/composer from Japan living in NYC; I was introduced to Paul and Bertha by Julia Taylor, (Edward Fletcher's grandmother) whom the Bonarts knew back in their Rochester days. I met Julie in Boston, with whom I share a wonderful family connection to the DeGogorzas, through my parents who came to study to Boston from Japan.

After Bertha's passing, when Paul was very depressed, I used to call him from NYC to see how he was doing. A few months later, he would say, "Guess what, I'm the most eligible bachelor in North Berkeley!" saying all the widows around the neighborhood would bring him food, and took care of him. But his void was vast. Then, one day, he called and said, "Guess what, Mari". So I said, "Did you get married?" :)

I met Margaret on my next visit to Berkeley, and saw how completely transformed Paul was: radiant, happy and full of life with his beautiful and spirited Margaret. Of course I was told by both, their history in Brazil and wonderful tales there. I treasured our breakfasts, long talks in the evening, about art, politics, music, and history.

Shortly after Bertha's passing, to ease passing time, I am one of his friends to encourage writing his memoire. He would say, "But I wouldn't know where to begin.. there are so much to be said". So, being in a creative profession which I know that one needs to start a project from total zero, from scratch, I said to him, "Well, just make an appointment with yourself once a day in a morning to put you in front of your typewriter, then commit to write one page a day... You don't even have to decide what to write; it can be about yesterday, or 1933, or 1940, Rochester or Brazil days.. Just mark on the top of the page the dates/topic and later you can sort them!". I was very happy that he adopted this method, soon saying, "Mari, it works! I am writing every day!".

Therefore it was my privilege and honor to know that his book was finally finished, published, and his remarkable experience is now known to the public. When my French husband Hervé Brönnimann wrote a review on which he checked often, Paul was very happy saying that he really appreciated Hervé's comment, since it comes from an European view. I had also sent a copy to a renown French composer Jean-Claude Risset (b. 1938), who was just here last week and learned about Paul's passing. Mr. Risset was very impressed with Paul's account, and said also quite haunted by the book; he said he learned some new information that, how quickly Nazi had spread and earlier than previously thought. I was also able to relay Mr. Risset's reaction of the book to Paul, which he appreciated very much.

After Paul and Margaret moved to Huntington Beach, it was more difficult for me to come visit often enough. In fact I think I only managed two times. He would always remember my birthday and call me up in New York; he would call me from time to time to see how I was doing, always encouraging me. He would be concerned for my two young children, one of whom is diagnosed with slight Autism spectrum disorder. He was very happy that my first solo CD came out; he was my constant, warm, always encouraging supporter. He had only a nurturing and creative, progressive thoughts, never ever cynical about life. Paul is a towering example for me how to live your life to the fullest, every single day of your life.

I would like to thank you [Paula Spence], and the Spence family. After marrying Margaret, Paul said that he gained not only a wife but the entire relatives; all of the sudden he had children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. His late life was filled with family and company, and we, friends of Paul, owe so much to you adopting him so naturally and warmly as your own.

As I type this letter I cannot stop but to feel extreme sadness and loss. The world lost a remarkable human being who lived quietly, but lead an active, honest, and beautiful life who contributed so much to the world. I lost one of the most remarkable friends in my life.

-Mari Kimura

Bertha Bonart and I were students in Will Barnet's class at the Art Student's League in New York. Bertha left on a boat to Brazil to join Paul. I thought I would never see her again. Some years later I moved to Rochester, N.Y. I was introduced to a fellow artist who looked very familiar - Bertha had arrived there as well!

Paul had successfully started up a manufacturing and distribution center for Bausch & Lomb but was now brought back to Rochester to be Vice President of Foreign Affairs. He had made a team of employees who participated in the decisions needed to be made, and who loved their work because of it. They loved him as well, as attested by many of them who met his plane at a very early hour, surprising him years later when he and Bertha returned for a visit. He had an eye for promoting his products. He finagled a meeting with the current dictator of Brazil and presented him with several pairs of eyeglasses, including sunglasses. Thus came about the image of the South American dictators peering from behind his Bausch & Lomb lenses. As an executive in Rochester, he made choices unheard of in his office. He hired people of color, promoted women to responsible positions and refused to use the executive washroom.

Some years passed and I made the decision to go to California. At an art function, I told Bertha that I had something to tell her. She had something to tell me as well. Fortunately, she and I passed the same information that day and shortly became California citizens. Paul retired in a few months and joined her.

The Bonart's home became a modern, light filled, functional center in the heart of the Napa Valley. They added a large room over a former chicken coop for Bertha's studio and a salon complete with a grand piano over the original living room. We were treated to live concerts and records of classical music while watching workers tend grapevines in what is now the Sterling Winery. We swam in the pool, heated by coiled pipes at a time when conserving anything was even considered. As usual. Paul was ahead of the game. I tasted my first fig from one of their trees and watched their German Shepherds frolic in ideal conditions. Bertha once said that if ever she were incarnated in this life, she would like to become one of Paul Bonart's dogs. One afternoon when I was visiting, a knock sounded and who should be standing there but Robert Mondavi and his soon to be wife, with gifts of wine to thank Bertha for labels she had designed for them.

The musical and artistic side of Paul became evident to me. I attended a concert of the Napa Symphony Orchestra where he played viola. He was concentrating on improving his playing and he drove to San Francisco for private lessons with no less than the first violinist with the San Francisco Symphony!

The long trip back and forth to the Bay area became tiresome. This influenced their decision to move to Berkeley. Their new house was an outstanding piece of modern architecture, designed by the head of the Architecture Dept. at U.C.Berkeley. They filled it with Bertha's art and enjoyed breathtaking views of a wide sweep of the bay.

Paul was always shrewd about politics: he was my source of light when I couldn't figure out the arguments for the many propositions we have to vote on in California. He was also shrewd about the stock market: when people were buying oil stocks, he bought oil service manufacturers and outdid all the clients of his adviser at Merrill Lynch.

Bertha's death left him terribly lonely. We were pleased when Margaret came into his life. Both of his wives were intelligent, creative and accomplished individuals. He would have settled for no less.

The move to Huntington Beach brought them closer to Margaret's family . They filled this house with art and renovated it to suit them. Major health issues soon restricted their life style. Paul
became computer savvy and filled our computers with frequent "forwards". His life became lonely again as Margaret's health failed. At this time he wrote his first account of life in the German underground. It was interesting to read and most everyone would have stopped at such a difficult and demanding task. But he saw how to make it better - and redid the entire book - this in his 90's!!!!!

Paul was an amazing, caring, moral, life-loving individual. I have been privileged to know him.

Just wish I knew a movie producer who would put this extraordinary life on the silver screen.

-Pat Walsh

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Due to popular demand, I am starting this blog to commemorate the life of Paul Bonart, who died at the age of 97 last Thursday (3/13/2008). He was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.

Anyone wishing to add to this blog should email their text and pictures to:

Thanks. I'll moderate what gets posted. If you would like to be a moderator, please email that address as well.