Bonnie burst into my life as an award-winning copywriter at Vickers & Benson Advertising in Montreal in 1964. The city was alive with the dynamics of Mayor Jean Drapeau as the city prepared for Expo ’67 and where every woman looked fabulous in the glittering fashion of the time. I had the good fortune to be managing the advertising and promotion for intimate apparel for Dupont of Canada. Because Bonnie was the best copywriter at V&B for my product line: lingerie, hosiery, swimwear and foundations, I quickly ensured that only she wrote the copy I needed. That partnership endures to this day.
Bonnie Buxton comes from sturdy stock, Earl Buxton and Dorothy Cox, pioneer educators from Alberta. As she enters her ninth decade, her progressive writing, parenting and generosity of spirit have buoyed me for over half a century. In spite of the devastating ravages of Alzheimer Disease, her warmth, ongoing joy for life, and an extraordinary capacity to reject the onset of Covid-19, keep her resolutely alive in the hearts of all who love her.
And loved she is. Recently, birthday messages poured in from around the world. Her literary skills were reflected by her deft humour and clarity of prose. She has been varied and prolific, writing for dailies and periodicals both here and abroad about food, travel, fashion and critical social issues like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). She collaborated on scripts for TV programs that actually got produced. As a producer/reporter for CBC TV in Montreal, she did the gamut of daily news to man on the street interviews. One memorable one was with a 12-year old Hugh Segal in his bedroom as the nascent politician whose letters were already published by the Star and Gazette. Research for guidebooks, whimsically illustrated by Betty Guernsey, led to the Inside Out series and editing and publishing the Rights of the Pregnant Parent and Mind Your Own Business for the entrepreneurial woman. Society’s Child was a record-breaking article for Elm Street Magazine with domestic and international pickup by Readers’ Digest. That was the story that kicked off the worldwide interest in FASD.
Following two years of international research, Bonnie’s book on FASD, Damaged Angels, was published in Canada in 2004 and in the US in 2005. Still in print, this definitive study of parents, professionals, and our own family, continues to provide guidance and solace to families everywhere.
As an adoptive mother and full-time grandmother, she wove compassion, resolute determination and a dogged work ethic into a rich and satisfying life for me and our extended family. As her partner and collaborator, I often felt like her student. Lessons learned are too numerous and varied to list here. However, my life has been so enriched and challenged that it has been more exciting than I ever could have imagined.
Today, I can only reflect on what she has given me and strive to keep all those life lessons alive. Bonnie may never realize just how many lives and attitudes she has changed through her work on FASD, but the messages and accolades received over the last quarter century attest to her enduring legacy.
Her work and passion for the children affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure will continue because so many have been inspired by her. The damage to individuals and society will continue as long as we remain blind to the scourge of alcohol in pregnancy and as long as our regulators allow the beverage alcohol industry to continue marketing a neurotoxin without warning to vulnerable consumers.
Selfishly, I grieve for the loss of my best friend, companion, lover, advisor and challenger who lifted me from the banality of my intemperate youth to an ongoing quest for new ways to learn and a thirst for knowledge of all kinds. My loss is ambiguous because the physical Bonnie is still with us, as robust as ever, but that brilliant, quirky intelligence has gone dormant. I am dedicated to her dreams, her hopes and her integrity. I miss her more than I can explain. Bonnie didn’t merely save my life; she made my life.