Obituary: John Kevin Bonilla

Loving son, husband, brother, uncle and friend


John Bonilla of Irvine died on January 18, 2016 of complications from quadriplegia. He was 54.

He was born on June 14, 1961 at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia to Diane DeLory and Kenneth Boyd Bonilla, MD. Dr. Bonilla had a private practice in Pomona for many years and also served on the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education.

The youngest of four siblings, John grew up in Claremont where he was quite active, playing AYSO soccer and competing with the Claremont Club and Claremont High School tennis teams. He was also musically inclined, particularly enjoying playing guitar. He graduated from CHS in 1979.

John’s life changed in 1982 when, after a night celebrating his 21st birthday, the car he was driving struck an oak tree in the median on Indian Hill Boulevard in downtown Claremont. Two of his passengers died. He was paralyzed. After the accident, he spent several months at Pomona Valley Hospital and the Casa Colina and Rancho Los Amigos rehabilitation centers. He then returned home to live with his mother Diane Bonilla and stepfather Tim Marxmiller for eight years.

As a result of the crash, the S-turn at Harrison Avenue and Indian Hill Boulevard near Mallows Park was redesigned and a light was added. Mr. Bonilla participated in several rehab programs at local community colleges. He also took part in Claremont’s “Boogie for Bonilla,” a fundraiser that enabled him to purchase a used van and lift. He then married Barbara Graner and they were loving companions for 26 years until his death.

John was active in the Orange County MADD group, taking part in educational efforts to warn teens about the dangers of driving under the influence. He will be remembered for his performance as a clown in the Ringling Bros. Circus, which was one of his life goals.

Throughout John’s life he brought humor, insight and great strength to his personal challenges. He had a great love of family and friends and never met a stranger.

“He will be greatly missed by all,” family shared, adding, “We love you, John. Rest in peace.”       

He was predeceased by his father, Ken Bonilla, in 2009. He is survived by his wife Barbara Grainer, his mother Diane DeLory Bonilla and stepfather Tim Marxmiller and his stepmother Ilene Bonilla. He also leaves his stepchildren, Andy and Matthew Grainer, his sister Lynn Traver (Robert), his brothers Richard (Lara) and Steve (Gay) and his nieces and nephews, Jennifer, Jessica and Nicholas Traver, Tyler and Cameron Bonilla and Katie, Allison “Ali” and Christy Bonilla.

Donations in John’s memory may be made to your local MADD group. His ashes will be scattered in Mammoth Lakes, where he loved to ski, backpack and camp with his family.  


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