Ralph Thomas Bonville

Bonnville, Ralph obit photo 1.jpg

Ralph Thomas Bonville
January 8, 1919
April 25, 2021
Bonnville, Ralph obit photo 2 .jpg

Ralph Thomas Bonville, 102, a gentleman of the “Greatest Generation”, died peacefully in his home while under the care of his family and Beacon Hospice nurses and home health aides.

He was born on January 8, 1919 to Thomas and DeLena (Soucier) Bonville in Presque Isle, Maine. He grew up and attended grade school in Presque Isle and graduated from Deering High School in Portland, the Class of 1936.

A lifetime learner, he had a voracious appetite for new knowledge, especially in mathematics, history, geology, archeology, genealogy and the lives and ways of our planet, Mother Earth.

Growing up during the Great Depression he worked as a house painter (starting at age 12 with his Dad and uncles) but due to the lack of work, joined President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program, The Civilian Conservation Corps, the program that gave jobs and education to millions of unemployed young men and WWI veterans. He joined Co 192 Maine, situated in Princeton, building forestry service roads during the winter of 1936-1937.

When work was available, Ralph went to work for Western Union in Presque Isle. While there, he married Eileen Grant in 1940 and they moved to Portland to work in the shipyard, building Victory ships to aid the allies during the early years of World War II. During those 3 years his son, Daniel and daughter, Diane were born.

Drafted into the army in 1944, he trained to be forward observer to fight in Germany but when the war in Europe ended he retrained as an observer with the cavalry, working with pack mules, preparing to invade the main island of Japan. When President Truman brought the Pacific War to an end with two atomic bombs, saving millions of allied troops as well as Japanese civilians, Ralph shipped out and landed in Japan, ultimately working in Tokyo at the General Headquarters of General McArthur. His role was working in the message center, his rank that of Tech Sargent.
Arriving home in 1946, he went to work with his father in the paint and paper hanging business, a family owned business, “Thomas Bonville and Son”, out of Falmouth, Maine. Together, in 1948, he and his father built the house he and Eileen moved into. Soon after, the same year, his second daughter, Deborah was born. In this house he raised his own children along with several of his family members’ children. This very house is the same house he passed away in, 73 years later.

Ralph was a founding member of the Falmouth American Legion Post #164 in 1947 and served in almost every position including Commander, Finance and his favorite role of Historian. Practically every family function took place in the Falmouth Legion Hall, Depot Rd., including weddings, birthdays, reunions and memorials.

He was a member of the CCC Legacy Association, the South Portland Shipyard Society and the Yarmouth VFW. He received the 2018 Citizen of the Year award in recognition of his dedicated service and commitment to the town of Falmouth. For 74 years he placed American memorial flags upon the graves of veterans; Last count, over 1500 flags and markers. He carried the American flag in parades for over 60 years.

In 2019, Ralph was awarded the CCC Legacy National Chapter Award for his work preserving the heritage of not only the history of the Maine companies but also of sites all over America that he visited and studied.

Twice an assistant scoutmaster in Portland and Falmouth, he brought the love of outdoor camping to his family. To this day, nearly all of his family, including great grandchildren, enjoy the outdoors and spend time traveling and camping in tents and trailers. His last trip was to Downeast Maine, October, 2020.  

As a lifelong birder, Ralph saw and recorded over 600 species in the US alone.

He was predeceased by his wife Eileen, his son David, an infant who died in 1943, his daughter Diane and all brothers and sisters.

He is survived by his son, Daniel Bonville and his wife, Sandra, his daughter, Deborah Bonville Libby and her husband, Donald, his nephew and hunting buddy, Alfred Pierce and his wife Jane and his cousin, Sister Agnes Bonville RSM. Also survived by 11 grandchildren and many great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews of the Twombly, Grant and McNeil families residing in Maine, Wisconsin, Texas and Oregon. Margaret Loughran Lyons, his daughter in law from years ago, Mary Miles and Maria Montelongo, both of whom adopted Ralph as their father and grandfather.

He is beloved by hundreds of friends and extended family, known by all, as Papa Bonville.

Those who wish to make contributions please donate to Honor Flight of Maine, the program that brings veterans to Washington, DC to visit the WWII and other war memorials. Ralph made this trip in 2017, “A great honor”, he said.

The family wants to send a BIG Thank You to all of the nurses and health care providers of the Beacon Hospice family. We would have been lost without you. Thank you to Dr Stilson and Emily, Dr Inhorn and all of the staff at Maine Medical and Mercy Hospital’s oncology units.

Due to Covid, a memorial service and burial will take place this summer when large attendance is permitted. Date and times will be provided at a later date.  

Online condolences may be expressed below.

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