In Memoriam: Bonnie James

San Francisco, June 11, 2007 — Bonnie P. James, of Mill Valley, California, passed away on Monday, June 11, 2007, aged 91 years 11 months, 7 days. A Marin County resident for more than 60 years, Bonnie was born on July 4, 1915 in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Byron O. and Hazel S. Pickard. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and in Berkeley, and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1936. Bonnie worked for Trans World Airlines in Washington, D.C. in World War II, serving as secretary to the defense attaché for the Republic of China. She also served as a Red Cross volunteer and ambulance driver, transporting returning wounded veterans from their disembarkation points to their convalescent hospitals. In 1945, Bonnie returned to the Bay Area, where she worked for the United Nations. In 1946, she managed the technical training of 30 Chinese officials in San Francisco. Between 1947 and 1950, Bonnie worked in the Embassy office of Ambassador J.D. Zellerbach in Rome, Italy. Bonnie joined the San Francisco-based Committee for Free Asia (later renamed to The Asia Foundation) in 1951, first serving as executive secretary to then-President Allen Valentine. In May 1952 she was assigned to the Hong Kong office to work as an Administrative Assistant. While there, she met John E. James, Jr (Jack), then Office Manager for United Press. They married November 18, 1952 in Manila, Philippines.

Bonnie returned from Hong Kong to the Bay Area in June 1953 and resigned from the Asia Foundation just before the birth of their son, David. Her husband, Jack, joined the Asia Foundation as a Program Officer in late 1953. For the next 27 years, the family alternated residences between Marin County and Asia when Jack was assigned to overseas posts as the Asia Foundation’s Representative in Korea (1958-1960), Malaysia (1963), Hong Kong (1967-1969), and Thailand (1977-1980). Bonnie pursued her interests in Asian art by volunteering with the Hong Kong Archaeological Society and with the National Museum in Bangkok. Bonnie and Jack maintained a residence in Mill Valley from 1972 until 2002.

In 1966, Bonnie began a 40-year relationship with The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where she became a Docent. At the de Young and the Legion of Honor, Bonnie conducted tours of the galleries and assisted with organizing the de Young library. Bonnie’s main specialty was porcelain, and she developed Docent training materials for porcelain that are still in use today.

After Jack’s retirement in 1980, they became active as volunteers with the Mount Tamalpais Interpretive Association, participating in Visitor Center staffing, and assisting with the summer Mountain Theatre program. Bonnie also participated in the Marin Jewish Community Center health club. Following her husband’s death in 2000, Bonnie moved to The Redwoods in Mill Valley in 2002, where she resided until she was admitted to Marin General Hospital on June 6, 2007. Bonnie died of pneumonia with cardiac complications on June 11. Memorial services will be held at 3:00 PM Saturday July 21 at The Towers, 1661 Pine Street, San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests tax-deductible donations be made in memory of Bonnie James to any of the following:

  • The Asia Foundation, c/o Susan Joachim, P.O. Box 193223, San Francisco, CA 94119-3223.
  • The Docent Council Memorial Fund, c/o Michael McIlvoy, Treasurer, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
  • The Redwoods General Endowment Fund, c/o Leah Levine, 40 Camino Alto, Mill Valley California, 94941

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