Bellwood cornerstone remembered

BELLWOOD – The borough of Bellwood is mourning the loss of a man who was community-minded and served the town for years, including more than two decades as mayor.

James C. Bonsell Jr., 89, died Tuesday at Epworth Manor, Tyrone.

Bonsell served as mayor from 1982 until 1995 and from 2002 until he resigned in September.

“He was like a pillar of the community. He will really be missed by the town,” said Sue Whiteford, former borough council member. “He was known and liked by everyone. I never heard anyone say a negative thing about him. He was proud of his country and proud of his religion. He was a man who was respected by everyone.”

Paul Pfahler, who recently retired after serving 30 years as police chief, called Bonsell “the right hand of the borough.”

“He was like a boss and a father at the same time. He was stern on what he wanted done. He wanted things done right. He treated everybody with respect,” Pfahler said. “When someone was sick, he would go to their home to see them. He was always doing something for somebody.”

Tyrone Mayor Bill Fink said he and Bonsell traveled together to a lot of functions.

“Jim Bonsell was a very special, special guy. He liked everyone and I believe everyone liked him,” Fink said. “He was always interested in everybody and whether they were doing well.”

Bonsell was involved with almost everything in the borough, Whiteford said.

“If anyone passed away or a family needed something, Jim Bonsell showed up. He was the type of guy who was always there for you,” Whiteford said. “He was very caring and always looking out for the town.”

Susan Waite, who recently retired as borough secretary, had known Bonsell for many years.

“In my opinion he was an honorable man, a good person,” Waite said. “He would come in and pick up the phone and call people who were struggling and ask what he could do to help them. He would take people to the grocery store and their doctor’s appointments. He was very friendly and community-minded.”

Wayne Snare, former borough council president, said Bonsell really cared about the town.

“He did a lot of things for the town. He was always helping with the police department. He was very good at doing things. If you asked him to do something he would jump in and do it,” Snare said.

Bonsell also served as a borough police officer from 1966 to 1972.

“When he was on the police force he was a class individual. If a kid got ornery, he would talk to him and tell him he “shouldn’t do things like that.” He was more than a badge, he was very personable and treated the kids great, they had a lot of respect for Jim,” said Ken Conrad, a longtime family friend and former borough councilman.

“He talked me into running, he was like the pied piper,” Conrad said.

Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. today and 10 until the 11 a.m. funeral service Saturday at Derman Funeral Home Inc., Tyrone, with the Rev. Peggy Bonsell officiating.