Yakima activist, former City Councilman Ron Bonlender dies at age 68
YAKIMA, Wash. — Ron Bonlender, pugnacious Democratic activist, former Yakima City Council member and downtown businessman, died Friday afternoon of an apparent heart attack. He was 68.
Bonlender was found at his home on North Seventh Street at about 3:30 p.m.
Friends said that Bonlender, who was not publicly known to have serious health problems, had worked at his downtown Sub Shop on Friday morning, but came home early because he did not feel well.
Former City Councilwoman Susan Whitman, speaking for the family, said relatives were not expected to immediately issue a statement. Funeral arrangements will likely be announced next week, Whitman said.
The sudden news shocked those in Democratic circles because Bonlender was practically synonymous with local Democratic politics. On Thursday night, he attended candidate forums and was himself running for a county freeholder position.
"Politics was everything to him. He was always taking on a new project," said Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly, who served on the county Democratic central committee when Bonlender was elected chairman of the party's 14th Legislative District almost a decade ago.
Mattingly, who noted that the two did not always see eye-to-eye, said Bonlender's election losses and political fights did not diminish his energy for civic engagement and public and community service. He recently hosted City Council candidates on his cable television show and once suggested local Democrats should have their own radio program.
"Nothing slowed Ron down," Mattingly said.