American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Thomas P. Bonner, 1962-1995

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

THOMAS P. BONNER 1962-1995

Thomas Bonner died on March 11, 1995 from a fall while leading a rock climb on Ragged Mountain in central Connecticut. Ragged Mountain is where Tom and I first received formal climbing instruction. I think it must somehow be significant that this was where he last climbed.

I have known Tom since kindergarten. We grew up in the same neighborhood in Guilford, Connecticut, exploring the nearby woods and marshes and eventually stumbling onto climbing. By the time we were juniors in high school, we had had enough stumbles and sought guidance.

After those three days of climbing school, climbing was a part of Tom’s life. He pursued leading, investing time to practice, study and purchase equipment. In a way, climbing was not very different from one of his other favorite activities, woodworking. Tom could make anything, and his New York City apartment was proof with its custom-made tables, closets, pillar stands, pediments and shelves, many of them crammed with books on mountaineering and rock and ice climbing. Perhaps his oddest creation was a large wooden compass, big enough to trace circles two feet in diameter; I am still not sure why.

In retrospect, Tom’s approach to and satisfaction from woodworking and climbing were probably the same. Both required patience and skill, and the finished products were appealing, whether a meticulously-restored wooden Lightning sailboat or a spider-like climb.

Tom was a true friend, loyal to his family, and had a unique sense of humor. He was my only climbing partner. We climbed together infrequently after high school, until recently, when we tried several snow and ice courses. One saw us hunkered down in the White Mountains during the “Storm of the Century” of 1993.

Tom climbed Katahdin in 1994 with his fiancée, her mother (who was celebrating her 66th birthday) and her mother’s friend. At Chimney Pond he whipped up delicious meals, another of the activities he enjoyed.

We summitted Rainier in July 1993; it was the highlight of our climbing experiences together. The last conversation I had with Tom was when he called to share his joy of a lead on ice, as well as to check on a recent injury of mine. Tom was always checking in. When his mother became ill, he traveled home from New York almost every weekend to visit. Tom was always there, either at home or on a climb.

Thomas is survived by his parents, John and Marguerite Bonner, seven brothers and sisters, six nieces and nephews who adored him, and his fiancée.

Tom loved to climb,

Tom climbed with a sense of humor and cigars

Tom climbed on ahead, but not too far

Tom climbed in the Gunks and in the Whites

Tom climbed on rock and ice

Tom climbed as a partner and a friend

Tom died on a climb in the end

Tom will never be forgotten as we move on and climb

Tom will be with us and on our minds

Tom’s patience and kindness and inner peace

are guidance for us and our own peace.

Alexander G. Taft

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