Bonnie Elder Harwell, a 1985 DHS graduate, is the daughter of the late Roy and Judy Elder of Devine. Bonnie has one sister, Vicki Elder Hammond, who also graduated from DHS in 1985 and who lives in Devine.
Following high school graduation, Bonnie attended college at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde with several high school friends: Teri DuBose, Monica Trollinger, and Kirsten Schneider. Bonnie remained in Uvalde for only one year before transferring to Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. After one semester there, she returned home to Devine and started working at USAA in San Antonio.
Bonnie worked at USAA for four years, and, during that time, she met Jared Ray of Knippa. They married in 1990 and moved to Corsicana, Texas, in January of ‘91. Bonnie then began working at Navarro Regional Hospital as a unit clerk in ICU. On March 11, 1993, Bonnie’s first son, Cody Ray, was born. Then, in August of ‘93, Bonnie enrolled in LVN school, graduating in August of ‘94.
In the summer of 1994, Bonnie became a single mom and started working as an LVN at the Navarro Regional Hospital on the medical-surgical floor. A few years later, she began working in labor and delivery at Baylor Hospital in Waxahachie where she remained until that unit closed in May of 2010.
Meanwhile, in December of 2001, Bonnie married Toby Harwell, and the couple lived in Chatfield, Texas, until they bought a home in Rice, Texas. A daughter was born, Hannah, on October 7, 2002, and then a son, Brayden, on May 10, 2004. The Harwells divorced in 2013.
Cody, Bonnie’s oldest son, graduated from Blooming Grove High School near Corsicana in 2011 and joined the United States Navy in November of 2014. He was first stationed in Pensacola, Florida; later, in Norfolk, Virginia. He returned from the service in August of 2017. Cody married Maddie Andrews of Corsicana in 2015. Maddie is a professional family photographer, and Cody has applied for a Texas Game Warden Academy.
Bonnie’s younger children attend Rice High School (near Ennis) where Hannah is a sophomore and plays volleyball, basketball, and softball. Brayden is a freshman and participates in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Both are active in FFA and “keep me very busy,” Bonnie states proudly.
Bonnie went back to school and graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and now teaches medical terminology and principles of health science at Ennis High School in Ennis, Texas. But, that’s not all. Bonnie also does home health nursing on the weekends. She says “This allows me to continue to take care of sick people, which I love.”
Bonnie says that her students are very important to her. She tries to teach them about life and its struggles and about everyday problems. Many of her students come to her with problems — a commonality among teachers. Knowing that a lot of these students do not have good family situations, Bonnie tries to help and give them advice.
Seemingly someone who likes to stay busy, Bonnie is also a cruise agent, booking cruises as a part-time job. This position enables her and the family to vacation via cruises every summer, something that they all love to do. She says she wants her children to experience as much of the world as they can, and the cruises provide that opportunity.
In her spare time, Bonnie enjoys running her kids around, watching them play in their sports and cheering them on, hanging out with friends, and “just enjoying life.” She is still best friends with her high school girlfriends that she grew up with. “We were nicknamed ‘the gnats’ in high school because we were always together. That name has stuck with us all through the years.”
These girls include Darla Toepperwein Bacon, Teri Dubose Marshall, Monica Trollinger Malone, Rhonda Edwards Korczynski, Debbie Estes Drew, and Janet Conway Leatherwood. Bonnie states sentimentally, “These friends are my family. We have been through everything together, and I don’t know where I would be without them.” This group of close friends take a girls’ trip every summer together, usually to places like Miami, where Janet Leatherwood lives.
Bonnie admits that her life has seen some difficulties, but, with the help of friends and family, she has persevered. One difficulty was the loss of both of her parents, which she says was very hard. However, Bonnie, who was adopted, recently found not only her biological father but a half sister and two half brothers, for which she is very happy. “We are becoming very close, and I feel like I have a bigger, more wonderful family now.”
Today, Bonnie attests that she is very happy and has experienced a fulfilling life. In reflection, she states, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”