Vernie Bonnessen traveled along the East coast while her husband served in the United States Navy. (Rachel Busch/Special to The Collegian)

By Josh Hall
Staff reporter

Married in December and enlisting the following July, Vernie Bonnesen’s husband began his military career in the U.S Navy. This event marked the beginning of three and half years that 88-year-old Bonnesen would experience inconsistency in seeing her husband. They moved several times on a frequent basis, and she dealt with many other hardships that come with having a spouse in the service.

Bonnesen was 21 years old and farming with her husband in Hutchinson when the letter stating that he would be serving the country was received. “Well, he wasn’t drafted, but he didn’t enlist willingly either. It was more like we were waiting for the letter to arrive,” said Bonnesen.

Once a part of the naval forces, the Bonnesens were moved to the East Coast in Brooklyn, N.Y. where Mr. Bonnesen would start his career on the USSR Consultant battleship during WWII. The ship was the actual station point. Mrs. Bonnesen’s stay in New York was brief. After less than a month of living in Brooklyn, the Bonnesen family was relocated to Boston, Mass.

Moving after very short periods of time became frequent. Mr. Bonnesen would arrive at different ports when he was in the U.S, but he was not home often.  Mr. Bonnesen had become Coxswain of his ship. This naval title that is no longer in use meaning the person who is in charge of a ship and its crew, under an officer, and who steers it. He was often away at sea. Because of this, he missed much family time. The Bonnesen’s first son was born while Mr. Bonnesen was serving, and he did not see much of his child during the years that he had served.

Mrs. Bonnesen’s most memorable moment of her husband was “When he came home,” said Mrs. Bonnesen. “That and the fact that the war was over and people could go back to the normal way of life.”

After Mr. Bonnesen’s term, the Bonnesens moved back to Hutchinson, and went on to dairy farming full time. “At first we had a milk-route and picked up milk from the farmers every morning,” said Mrs. Bonnesen. “But after that we were able to find work on a farm.”

In the late 70s or 80s the Bonnesens made a trip to the East to visit the war memorials in Washington D.C. and Williamsburg, Va. and took their children with them. “We took our children to historical places about every year. First we went to historical things in this state and then we started to branch out. Some people go golf or to amusement parks during vacations but we didn’t do that. We’d take them to historical places and let them learn about that,” said Mrs. Bonnesen.

It was eight years ago that the Bonnesens decided to move to the Kansas Veteran. Mr. Bonnesen “Wanted to be around other veterans,” said Mrs. Bonnesen. Before their move, Mr. Bonnesen had acquired Parkinson’s. He succumbed to it soon after his arrival. “After my husband passed, I just decided to stay here. It’s nice,” said Mrs. Bonnesen.

Joshua Hall is a Junior Communications student from Woodbridge, Virginia. You may e-mail him at