Bonnie Strouse - July 15, 1952 - September 6, 2008
On Saturday September 6th I lost a large piece of my life. My wife, my friend, my partner, my one true love lost her four year battle with cancer. In the end the disease and the never-ending treatments left her physically unable to fight off the infections that were constantly attacking her. I've had people ask me if she was "ready to go". Hell no! She was absolutely not ready, but just didn't have anything to fight with anymore.
Bonnie was a remarkable person who along with being a wife that made a slug like me realize he'd hit the ultimate jackpot was also a wonderful mother, an incredible cook, a fiercely loyal friend and an accomplished business person. Saddest is how our little granddaughters will never get to know their Nana because this was a person who was custom made to be a dynamite grandmother. Most remarkable was how absolutely oblivious she was to all of those things. She was blissfully clueless as to how special she was. Yet another reason to love her dearly.
Since this blog is about business let me concentrate on those traits. On a spring day in 1999 Bonnie announced to me that we should buy an old, run down, deserted gas station in the middle of the town we lived near. When I asked why she stated "for my business". That started the odyssey that took the town's eye sore and turned it into an award-winning renovation project of great acclaim. She also - with no prior experience - opened her dream business La Bella Vita that became the gem of downtown Brighton Michigan.
Bonnie had an Associates degree in Accounting from Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. Me with my Bachelors and MBA would of course be the business compass for her, right? Well, let me tell you something. She had more business acumen on her worst day than most of us have on our best. And the reasons are very straight-forward. She had vision, passion and the unique ability to see things that others can't (or won't). Others saw an abandoned gas station and she saw a beautiful building. Others bought merchandise that other stores were selling successfully and she saw the next hot thing (i.e., she was carrying Webkinz two years before they became hot). Other stores made returning merchandise too difficult, she made it too easy. Where some would buy lesser merchandise and sell it at a premium she would only buy quality and sell it fair. When she finally had to give her store up because she couldn't physically run it anymore every single item sold after only 6 weeks. We've actually seen display units advertised on Craigslist locally as having "come from La Bella Vita".
Here's your lesson. Education is nice. Experience is nice too. As for me I'll bet on the person with vision, passion and that magic touch every single time.
I'm told that the hole in my soul will lessen over time. Right now that's difficult for me to believe. I do know this, the world is a lot less bright, a lot less interesting and a hell of a lot less tasty without her.