ST. ANNE — In February 1958, Bernie Lavoie and Bonnie Morrical said “I do” in Chebanse. Sixty-three years, Bernie and Bonnie passed away just two days apart.
On April 28, their hometown of St. Anne and surrounding communities came together to pay their respects to Bernie and Bonnie — both 85 years old — who passed away on April 17 and April 19, respectively.
Bernie had been St. Anne’s Township commissioner for 32 years, and — with the help of 17 surrounding villages and townships — the funeral processional included more than 20 work trucks to pay tribute to Bernie’s work.
When discussing the procession idea, the village’s director of public works Don Leveque said, “Bernie would’ve gotten a kick out of that.”
Sue Bonvallet, village treasurer, said that seeing the camaraderie from all of the villages was “tear-jerking.”
“It was just so impressive and so neat that all of these towns were coming together to do that for them,” Bonvallet said. “They were very well loved in St. Anne.”
After a joint funeral service in First Presbyterian Church in St. Anne, the procession made its way to Kankakee Memorial Gardens Mausoleum in Aroma Township where the couple was laid to rest.
Prior to becoming township commissioner, Bernie owned and operated his own excavation business. He was on numerous village boards and organizations in the community and was a lifetime member of St. Anne Presbyterian Church, where he also served as an elder and trustee. He belonged to the American Legion, Township Officials of Illinois and the V.A.
Bernie was a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served for two years in Germany. He traveled back to Germany on the 25th anniversary for a tour of his services.
Bonnie held numerous jobs in the medical field and worked part time at the U.S. Postal Service. Her last role before retiring was with the Daily Journal. In retirement, Bonnie enjoyed decorating her home and yard.
Leveque, who lived a few doors down from the couple, said “there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for you.”
The couple had two sons, Terry and Gene. Terry lives in Bakersfield, Calif., with his wife, Karol, and Gene passed away in October 2020.
Gene had been helping to take care of Bernie when he was ill. After Gene passed, Bonnie was assisted in Bernie’s care by many in the community. This included the Rev. Mike Seed, who officiated during their funeral.
The perfect pair
Thomas and Sue Cotton of St. Anne attended the same church as the Lavoies and have been friends with Bernie and Bonnie for decades. Thomas eventually became the highway commissioner for the village and Bernie served as his mentor.
“Township commissioner is its own little family and they’re a very tight group of people,” said Sue. “Bonnie was as big of a part in the township family, and the wives have a friendship that Bonnie was a significant [part of].”
Thomas and Sue agreed that it was only Bernie and Bonnie’s ages that forced them to retire. They also mentioned there was no age limit when it came to their friendship.
The Cottons shared stories that were told during the funeral, including one from a woman who had worked at USPS with Bonnie (and recalled the couple as “spunky”). One day during a snowstorm, the woman’s car had broken down and she needed to get her dad to the hospital for dialysis treatment.
As she was trudging through the snow to get to her father’s to use his car, Bernie happened to drive by. Not only did he give her a ride to her father’s, but he drove a snow plow in front of them to create a snow-free path to get them safely to Route 102.
“That story is one of thousands for what he did for the whole community,” said Thomas.
The Cottons had no shortage of kind things to say about the Lavoies — even saying that the world would be a much better place if there were more Bernies and Bonnies.
Sue said that she wasn’t surprised with how their story came to a close, as they were “a pair.”
“They’ve been a pair for 63 years,” said Sue. “And I think that she was just so heartbroken, so God took them together.”
Sue recalled speaking with the Lavoie’s son, Terry, during the services about how the couple was always together.
With a smile, Terry said to Sue, “Can you believe it? She couldn’t even let him be out of her sight for two days — she had to follow him to Heaven.”