Daniel Wayne Bonwell, 69, died Friday, Sept. 20, at IU Health Center, surrounded by family.
Born March 2, 1950, to Richard Wayne Bonwell and Barbara Jean (Ross) Bonwell, who predeceased him, the Indianapolis native was a graduate of Perry Central Junior High School and Southport High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from Ball State University, with a double major in television/film and journalism. His Muncie radio show, “Goon’s Tunes,” was a showcase for his favorite music from the 1960s and 1970s, including Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Yes, and King Crimson.
His appreciation for film and photography squared nicely with his love of automobile racing, whether dirt track, sprint car, or Indy car. Like many Hoosiers, his family had a tradition of attending the Indianapolis 500, which he maintained until his health declined. During his lifetime he took thousands of photos, many of which were published by the United States Auto Club (USAC). Racing was in his blood, even pedal-powered. He was official photographer for the International Human-Powered Speed Championships in 1983-1985.
Dan’s encyclopedic knowledge of movies and television shows was a valuable asset during his 25-year career at the Indianapolis News, where he worked on the television and entertainment desks until his retirement in 1997. His editor, Marion Garmel, said he was a fount of information on movies, TV shows and music: “His recommendations were always spot-on.”
A lifelong resident of Indianapolis’s south side, Dan was fully engaged with his community and received many awards for his service. He served as newsletter editor for the Old Southside Neighborhood Association and was an active member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where he especially enjoyed volunteering with the Homework Club and Angels from the Heart. He also served on the board of directors of the Concord Community Development Corporation and helped at the food pantry there through Gleaner’s Food Bank. His photos of the neighborhood documented both its historic character as well as many areas that needed improvement. In 1995 he wrote: “Still fighting a war on trash, stupidity, uncaring, and lack of hope. I’ll never give up. Have to plant a seed of hope and get it growing.”
More recently, Dan lamented the “lack of respect these days. The world is crazy now, with so much shooting going on.” He said, “Respect others and they will respect you. Try to think positive.” This embodies Dan’s approach to life: Despite his disabilities and health challenges, he endeavored to help other people and maintain a positive attitude. He continued taking photos, and it was not unusual to see him on his battery-powered wheelchair heading to Pacers, Colts, and Indians games downtown.
His letters and postcards were often laced with bits of humor and wisdom that he called TidBits, such as “Pythagoras Proverb: Wisdom thoroughly learned will never be forgotten,” “Remember: When you find yourself in over your head, don’t open your mouth. SWIM!,” “Broke? I started out with nothing and I still got most of it” and “You are a Hoosier if your dog and your wallet are both on a chain.” Dan’s friends and family called him by a variety of fond nicknames, including Gentle Giant, Dan the Man, and Big D. While courting his future wife, he sent her love letters under the pen name Larry Bumblebee.
Dan is survived by his wife, Rose Mary (Lee) Bonwell; brother, Gary Ross Bonwell (Tricia); sister, Dana Jean Raco (Lisa Johnson); sisters-in-law, Pam, Jackie and Robin; many nieces, nephews and close friends; and his dog, Jethro, and cats, Olive, Skippy, Felix, Monte and Kitt.
Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, in Lauck & Veldhof Funeral and Cremation Services, 1458 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis. A Mass of Christian Burial is at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1530 Union St., Indianapolis. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to F.I.D.O. (Friends of Indiana Dogs Outside, P.O. Box 30069, Indianapolis, IN 46230, or fidoindy.org) or Concord Neighborhood Center, 1310 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46225, or concordindy.com). Online condolences may be shared with the family at LauckFuneralHome.com
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