Bonnie Jeanne (Betts) Staffel, 98
Sculptor, potter, painter, teacher, and longtime local resident Bonnie Staffel passed away Oct. 28, 2020, in Charlevoix, Michigan, at the age of 98.
Bonnie was born Dec. 16, 1921 in Toledo, Ohio, to Dr. Charles T. and Mary Emma (Jones) Betts. Bonnie grew up in Maumee, Ohio, along with her sister Rose Mary (Betts) Locke and brothers Elston and Paul Ervin.
After graduating from Maumee High School in 1939, Bonnie pursued her lifelong love of art, studying commercial and fine art at Feather and Feather Art School in Houston, Texas, and later at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. It was there that she met and married fellow artist William Staffel in 1945.
Bonnie had wanted to be an artist ever since she was a little girl. And, after moving to Toledo, she took a ceramics class at The Toledo Museum of Art and knew that was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
In 1951, she received a scholarship to study ceramics at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
After their daughter Marell was born in 1952, the Staffels made their home in Maumee.
Bonnie began her potting career from her basement studio and sold her work at art fairs. In 1961 she exhibited for her first of many times in the Charlevoix Waterfront Art fair. She and Bill fell in love with the area and in 1964 bought an old farmhouse and barn for their studio and shop.
They spent summers there and moved permanently to Charlevoix in 1970, where they operated her successful pottery business for many years.
In 1984, Bonnie took the position of resident potter at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and later became their program director.
Bonnie loved to travel, having visited most of the United States with her family as a child. When the folk school gave her the opportunity to teach pottery in Denmark in a teacher exchange program, she jumped at the chance and spent three winters there.
Bonnie accomplished much in her long life, which included teaching workshops, publishing pottery videos, creating an Art and Craft School in Canton, Mississippi, as well as designing and producing many functional pottery pieces and one-of-a-kind stoneware and porcelain sculptures, and creating an apprenticeship program for aspiring potters.
In recent years, Bonnie was recognized for her 70 years of work with a retrospective exhibit at the Charlevoix Circle of Arts.
Bonnie was kind but tough, soft-spoken but confident. She was a hard worker who achieved all but one of her life goals—living to be 100—and always took time to support and encourage other artists in their endeavors.
Even in her later years, Bonnie continued to produce pottery and worked for a time as a proofreader for the Charlevoix Courier newspaper. She had a very sharp eye and undoubtedly would have caught any errors appearing in this obituary.
In a 2002 interview with Fine Ceramics Magazine, when asked if she had any remaining goals. Bonnie said, “I want to be an inspiration.” Any who knew her would say she succeeded.
She was an incredibly talented and generous person, a loyal and dedicated friend, and an amazing and loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
Bonnie was preceded in death by her parents, siblings, her former husband Bill, and grandson-in-law Larry Cummings, as well as her dog Max, who died two weeks before her.
She is survived by her daughter Marell Staffel, granddaughters Shannon Cummings and Heather Harrod, great-grandchildren Alexandria Cummings, Chandler Cummings, and Jacob Harrod, nephews, and nieces including Rebecca Locke-Gagnon, with whom she was close. She is also survived by many dear friends.
In honor of Bonnie’s 80th birthday, her daughter Marell—along with many friends—established The Bonnie Staffel Fund for Arts and Culture. Since 2001, the fund has supported visual art exhibits, hands-on arts experiences, and more.
Those wishing to honor her memory by supporting the fund can do so online at the Charlevoix County Community Foundation website. Choose Bonnie Staffel Fund from the drop-down menu, or mail donation to: CCCF, P.O. Box 718, East Jordan, MI 49727, (Bonnie Staffel Fund in memo line) No services are planned.
Arrangements are in the care of the Charlevoix Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes. Sign her online guestbook www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com