Bonnie Gauthier had just the right amount of sass.
A restaurant server who loved people, partying and the New England Patriots, she was just two weeks shy of her 60th birthday when Hurricane Ian blew through Fort Myers Beach.
Family called her Auntie Bon Bon, both for her name and her catchphrase, “Shake ya Bon Bons!” Another signature Bonnieism: The greeting, “Hey girl!”
A lover of blueberry muffins and donuts, Bonnie served patrons at Plaka Restaurant, a Greek joint on Fort Myers Beach’s Times Square.
Bonnie savored the finer things, seldom leaving home un-bedazzled by jewelry. Once search and rescue crews leave, her family hopes to recover bits of her Swarovski crystal collection from the rubble.
But the things Bonnie treasured most were free. A good time. Her son and grandchildren. A drink poured in the company of a friend.
It was in some ways fitting that Bonnie spent her final night with three buddies, participating in a timeless Florida ritual: the hurricane party.
“That’s just what we do,” said her niece, Samantha Thomas. “We get together. Essential supplies for children, and the adults make sure the liquor is stocked and ready to go.”
Word of Bonnie’s passing spread across the island before officials confirmed it. A friend erected a makeshift memorial out of wooden debris where she was found.
A fundraising campaign to help transport Bonnie’s remains to Massachusetts, where she will be laid to rest, had raised more than $8,300 as of Friday afternoon.
Those who donated wrote that they’ll always remember the welcoming server from the Greek spot on the beach. The island community Bonnie belonged to is small. It can be insular. But even if you weren’t from Fort Myers Beach, Bonnie had a way of making you feel like a lifer.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.