On November 26, 2012, I drove to Richmond, Indiana, to attend the memorial service for Mouseketeer and dance instructor Bonnie Lynn Fields Elder, 68, who died of throat cancer on November 17th, 2012. It was an intimate service -- only 16 people attended - at Doan & Mills Funeral Home, and even though I didn't know Bonnie (her family and friends called her Lynn), by the time the calling and service were over, I wished I had.
There were many photos of Bonnie on display from her bit parts in movies, as a Mouseketeer and as a baby with her parents. Especially nice was a color photo of Bonnie with Walt Disney, whom she called "a doll."
Her only living relatives were a couple of cousins from Florida, Robbin Myers (husband John) and her brother, and they told me a few anecdotes about Bonnie: She taught Barbra Streisand how to rollerskate for her role in "Funny Girl"; her favorite movie in which she appeared was "Kissin' Cousins" with Elvis Presley because he took good care of the cast members; and when Robbin was 4 and not old enough to go to school, she followed Bonnie's bus to school and Bonnie had to walk her back home.
One of Bonnie's closest friends came from California to pay tribute - Emily Tillman, a former dance student of Bonnie's. She took lessons from Bonnie starting at age 10, and at 18 she opened her own Fancy Feet Dance Studio. "Bonnie used to call me Fancy Feet," she said. "To me she was much more than an instructor. She gave me confidence and social skills and told her students to work hard and strive for something greater. She was proud, but with humility."
The most loving and supportive friend late in life and at the time of her death was Alan Singleton. He and his mom were there for her when she was facing hard times before her illness, and after she was diagnosed they looked after her, took her to doctor appointments and helped her any way they could. Alan said, "She never complained about pain. On Friday, the day Hospice was coming to take her to the hospital, she had given herself a perm by the time they got there! That night, the day before she died, I told her that her battle was over and it was time for her to go." She died the next day.
I was honored to represent the fans and speak a few words about The Mickey Mouse Club. I said that Bonnie was a small part of something really big that affected many fans who smile when they hear the word "Mouseketeer," and that she should be proud of that part of her legacy. I also wore a Mickey Mouse Club logo pin that I've had since the '50s.
©2012 by Rita Rose