That is to say, we were doing for him as he would have done for us.
He was born on August 30, 1932, to Charles Anthony and Jeanne Marie Bonin in Broussard, Louisiana, a rural, French-speaking Acadian (“Cajun”) community straddling the Lafayette and St. Martin parishes. Throughout his youth, he helped his parents farm the land. Charles’s love for gardening remained with him all of his life and became one of many ways he affected those who knew him.
Charles’s love of learning was life long, and his interests were broad, extending from agriculture, astronomy, engineering and mathematics, and woodworking to religious studies and theology. He graduated as the Valedictorian at St. Cecilia Catholic School in Broussard and attended the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, earning a B.S. with Honors in Civil Engineering. In fulfillment of his ROTC obligation, Charles served as a navigator in overseas military transport operations in the Air Force from 1954-1957. In 1991, Charles returned again to school to receive a M.A. in Religious Education from the University of Dallas. He received certification as a Master Gardener and in Rainwater Harvesting from Texas Agri-life Extension Service.
Charles often said that the best decision of his life had been to marry Maria Sylvia Rodriguez. They wed in 1957 at the Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio. By 1963, the couple had four sons. As a project engineer for Brown & Root, Inc., Charles managed large constructions projects throughout the south and southwest. The Bonin family became active in civic life wherever they settled.
In 1982, with their last child in college, Charles and Sylvia settled in Corsicana. Within a few years, he retired and began a second career as a volunteer in service of his church, his family, and his community. Among his many commitments, Charles supported Sylvia’s work as the Director of the Navarro Council of the Arts. He volunteered with the Navarro County Extension Service, the Master Gardening Program, Food for Fitness, Christmas in October, the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, the Red Cross, and the United Way. For Immaculate Conception Church, Charles coordinated Adult Religious Education, served on the Parish Council and as a Lector and Commentator, and ministered to the sick and homebound. More recently, he oversaw the construction of the Immaculate Conception Holy Family Reception Center.
We draw inspiration from Charles as a man of great character and expansive intellect, a deep and abiding faith, and abundant love and generosity. He read avidly. He was a gifted archivist who documented on well-ordered lists the events of his life as well as the steps for each project he undertook. Given his capacity for remembering chronology and context and his natural gifts as a storyteller, he might have been a historian. Instead, he committed his life to serving others, to sharing his knowledge, as well as his culinary, organizational, and construction skills. In so many ways, he cultivated a better life for each of us and planted a garden from which we are all still taking nourishment.