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The older a person gets, the more you say goodbye. I know that's probably obvious. But sometimes you don't realize that you're officially getting old until you start counting up how many there have been.

Sometimes the goodbyes are to loved ones you cared for immensely, and sometimes it's an acquaintance. This week our little community lost a special lady that impacted more people than she probably realized.

Our official "Pumpkin Lady" passed away unexpectedly. Always one with a kind heart, it was a joy to have the chance to visit with Bonnie Sanders.

Growing up in Vinton, leaving for a while and then returning, has been a fun experience. As a child dad would bundle us all into the car at Christmas time and we'd go out to see the lights at Kerstens. Then we'd head south of town to go and see lights at "that farm."

I didn't know the Sanders family at the time, but only knew their farm from the Christmas lights. Decades later our family crossed their paths through church events and through school trips to the pumpkin farm.

The willingness to open their farm to the community welcoming school children each fall always made it an enjoyable fall season. She'd introduce Big Bird to the children, the resident ostrich, and tell the children the size of eggs from an ostrich, one egg equaled a dozen chicken eggs. She'd talk about the other animals that were currently on the farm and give a brief less on each of them. Other animals that lived there included pot-bellied pigs, turkeys and chickens, and a few emus.

She would set up a display in front of the farm that made great photo opportunities, and many of us probably have photos marking memories of the visit.

At the end of each visit, she would take the children across the road and let them each choose a pumpkin to take home with them. Some years they'd also get to take an ear of Indian corn home with them too. This was a big deal to each of the children to have their very own pumpkin!

Through the years, she gave out probably tons of pumpkins. It was obvious that she loved the kids coming out to the farm and she enjoyed the opportunity to watch the kids explore the farm. For many, this would be the only time they'd see a farm up close.

But for each child who came through, there was the chance to make an impression and I'm sure she did. A visit to the farm was one of the annual things that the kids just did.

Dwight and Bonnie also competed in the Iowa State Fair entering produce in the various competitions and usually bringing home ribbons for it. This wasn't just something they did, but they took along their grandchildren. And of course, the kids won as well.

The pumpkin idea started she said the year after she married, and she was trying to find some pumpkins. The only ones she could find were in a crate at the store, and she decided then that it wasn't fun getting them that way, so she started planting them. The Kacena farm north of Vinton has filled in the gap following the retirement of the Sanders family.

The Sanders family has had roots in the community for decades, touching the lives of so many. Some Christians believe that you will be known in heaven like you are on earth. So I suspect, there might be a pumpkin patch with Dwight and Bonnie's names on it. And there you will find the couple ready to show you around and tell you a bit about the place. I don't know, maybe they will even have a Big Bird.

Thanks, Bonnie, for your kind and loving heart. We'll miss seeing you here, but we'll see you there!


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Gerald Bates October 27, 2021, 6:45 am Loved reading this. Thank you!
Mary Becker Root October 27, 2021, 5:16 pm Great story. She will truly be missed but so many memories were made.
Dale & Karen Hagen October 27, 2021, 5:17 pm What a great tribute to a gracious and much loved lady! Her and Dwight were two very special people and warmed many hearts with their pumpkin patch and beautiful Christmas display! Their loving nature and kindness to everyone who stopped in to see their displays and animals! I'm sure God has her attending his pumpkin patch and caring for the animals! Rest in peace, Bonnie, we love you! Dale and Karen
Sharon Underwood Cruse October 27, 2021, 5:57 pm Beautiful tribute and so well written
Mary Blank October 27, 2021, 7:51 pm Thank you for years of beautiful squash and pumpkins! The Christmas display was lovely! Your Mom and Dad were such hard workers and very kind to everyone. May she Rest in Peace!
Ann Glime October 27, 2021, 7:55 pm Well written...thank you!!!
Connie Barnes October 28, 2021, 11:17 am Beautifully said and beautiful tribute. When I think of Bonnie the word love comes to mind.
Dana & Gary Burmeister October 28, 2021, 11:26 am Wonderfully said Valerie,
Ellen Olson October 28, 2021, 3:40 pm Valerie, You captured the giving and loving heart of Bonnie. Thank you for your thoughtful goodbye.
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