Former Congressman Don Bonker remembered as a ‘peacemaker’

Jun 2, 2023, 10:08 AM | Updated: 10:14 am

Don Bonker...

Bonker represented Washington's Third District in Congress. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Known as a “peacemaker,” former U.S. Representative Don Bonker, who represented Washington’s 3rd District from 1975-89, has died in Silverdale.

“He did so many wonderful things for Washington state,” Ron Dotzauer, CEO of Strategies 360 and good friend of the representative, said. “He was involved in many environmental issues. Don was a guy who would reach across the aisle and find a way to get to ‘Yes.'”

Bonker was elected to the House in 1974. He worked with environmental groups, industry, ports, and labor to develop policies in an effort to balance jobs and protect the natural environment.

Bonker was 86 and is survived by his wife of 50 years, Carolyn, daughter Dawn, son Jon and five grandchildren.

“Dad made a lasting impact through his work, but his love and dedication to our family was even more extraordinary,” Jon Bonker told the Bainbridge Island Review. “He took more pride in the titles ‘Hubby,’ ‘Dad,’ and ‘Papa’ than ‘Congressman.’ He was the rock of our family, our protector, our greatest advocate, and our best friend. We’re devastated by his loss, but we’re grieving with hope because he belonged to Jesus, and we know we’ll see him again.”

Bonker chaired the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations.

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“He was a difference maker,” Dotzauer said. “He would change the way business was done in Congress and changed it for the better.”

Bonker was also involved in the development of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the expansion of the Olympic National Park to include Point of Arches and Shi Shi Beach, and preservation of the old growth in Willapa Bay.

Bonker continued to make an impact after he left Congress in 1989. He worked on issues like human rights and campaign finance reform. Bonker wrote a memoir in 2020, “A Higher Calling.” It described his public service, faith, and the importance of “moral leadership and decency.”

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Former Congressman Don Bonker remembered as a ‘peacemaker’