Fern Bonifer, 93, Ireland

Fern Bonifer, 93, of Ireland, died Monday, September, 21, at the home of a daughter in Ireland. She was born in Stendal August 19, 1917, to Marvin and Milda Henke. She married Robert Lee Bonifer in 1952. He died in 2005.

Fern expressed a vivid imagination at an early age with her three imaginary childhood friends, Hugo, Sophie and Roseadale. Her favorite pet was a dairy cow she named Whistle-Whistle. She gave names like Green Apples and Daisy Gold to her dresses.

A 1946 graduate of Huntingburg High school, Fern was a pioneering professional woman. Her lightning-fast shorthand and typing skills earned her a job as the court reporter for the Dubois County Circuit Court and a staff position with circuit court judge Eldo Wood. She and her husband raised six children and produced a long-running series of adventures on their family farm southwest of Ireland. As co-owner and chief troubleshooter for Bonifer Enterprises, she deftly managed businesses that included: farming; farm equipment sales; long-haul trucking; manufacture and sales of Fantastic Pig Feed; thoroughbred racing; and, most famously, Clover Leaf Park & Riding Stable, a family-operated theme park built around rehabilitated horses and she never even liked horses. That she managed to see it through was proof of the unconditional love she had for her husband and her family. In addition to all that, Fern had a busy social and community life. Ninety-three years was barely enough to contain it all.

Fern quilted, crocheted, and sewed, and at age 83, in partnership with her daughter, launched Fern Fashion to make and sell aprons on Etsy and at local craft shows. In 2020 she cut fabric for over 10,000 COVID masks her daughter and friends sewed and sold. Fern was a lector and eucharistic minister at St. Mary Church in Ireland where she was a longtime parishoner; a member of the BPW, sang with the Singing Seniors at local assisted living centers; bowled with her team, The Rubies, was in a Tuesday Morning Women’s Bowling league; served as a teacher’s aide at 10th Street School in Jasper; was a member of Women of the Moose; served as President of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary Post 673, where she got photos of all the past Presidents installed at the post; was active in the Jasper High School Band Parents, and every year for 39 consecutive years presented the Brian Bonifer Award to the band’s Outstanding Jazz Musician at the annual band banquet.

Fran and Robert were early adopters of CB radios. In the 1960s they build their own and operated under the call letters, ’18Q3362.’ Later, in the 1970s, when the CB radios got popular, Fern’s handle was ‘Delta Dawn.’ She played piano and co-hosted bonfire sing-alongs and big family reunions on the family farm. She was a regular at the Habig Center in Jasper, where she consistently relieved other seniors of their betting money in games of poker and Scrabble. On Friday and Sunday nights she could be almost always found at a bingo game and could be talked into a visit to the casino in French Lick on five minutes’ notice. She was an amazing cook. Her oatmeal cookies were legendary. She caused frequent squabbles at the dinner table over who got to eat the end pieces of her French bread and she was a prodigious finder of four-leaf covers.

She is survived by one sister, Jeanne Rust and husband Joe, Holland; three sons, Michael Bonifer, Los Angeles, Alan Bonifer and wife Marilyn, Tampa, Florida, and Mark Bonifer, Indianapolis; two daughters, Anne Mehringer and husband Bucket, and Beth Underwood and husband Carl, all of Ireland; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

In addition to her parents and husband she was preceded in death by one son, Brian Bonifer, and her grandson, Luke Mehringer.

Friends may call from 2-8 p.m. Thursday at the Becher-Kluesner Downtown Chapel in Jasper and from 9-10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary Church. The Women of the Moose will hold a short memorial at 6 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home. Masks and social distancing will be required. Online condolences can be shared at www.becherkluesner.com. Memorial contributions can be made to the Women of the Moose, the Luke Mehringer Endowment Fund, the Jasper High School Jazz Band, or to a favorite charity. A Mass of Catholic Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary Church with burial following in the church cemetery.

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