Unshakeable: Bonny Rouse won’t let a little thing like losing a leg slow her down

Posted 6/6/24

Folks out for a drive were honking and yelling words of support Monday as they passed Bonita ‘Bonny’ Rouse as she took her power scooter off-roading on the grassy knoll on the south side …

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Unshakeable: Bonny Rouse won’t let a little thing like losing a leg slow her down


Folks out for a drive were honking and yelling words of support Monday as they passed Bonita ‘Bonny’ Rouse as she took her power scooter off-roading on the grassy knoll on the south side of West Coulter Avenue. The cheers pushed her on as she went tree to tree, making sure yellow ribbons and flags along Powell’s main roadway were tidied up after a recent wind storm; just in time for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The anniversary celebrates the date Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. The success on June 6, 1944 created a path to victory.

“The stakes were so great, the impact so monumental, that this single day stands out in history,” reads the National D-Day Memorial.

Rouse was facing her own battle as she rode alone. Some of the knolls are steep and she occasionally used her one good leg kind of like Fred Flintstone in his cave-mobile. She was determined not to get stuck. That’s not always the case.

Sometimes she’ll be working in the mud and ruts in her garden and she’ll need to call her husband Bill for support.

“I just call him and say come get me out and he comes and rescues me,” she said.

Her power scooter goes where she can’t go alone now, yet she refuses to stop moving forward.

“She has always had this drive,” Bill said. “She says the Lord has something planned for her to keep fighting and keep going and overcome all these hurdles and obstacles that take place in life.”

Bonny is part of a Powell nonprofit organization, Troop Support, that has since 1991 promoted patriotism and helped local soldiers fighting to protect American interests.

“They need the backing,” she said. “They need to know that there's somebody that loves them.”

Bonny refuses to let a little thing like losing her leg to a bone infection keep her from showing her support. She goes everywhere, refusing to slow down, let alone taking a minute of her day feeling sorry for herself.

“Your life goes different places. It's the way it's supposed to be, you know,” she said.

She is considering returning to Powell High School next year as a substitute teacher “if they will have me,” she said with a giggle.

The mother of two and grandmother of five spent 31 years in Park County School District 1 as a para educator. She’s prepared for what life throws at her. She also spent years as a backcountry EMT for Big Horn County Search and Rescue.

She would go anywhere — even off a cliff if someone was in need — but often chose her own path.

“We had some really funky calls up in the Bighorns,” she said. “If I had to repel down a cliff, I was fine,” she said. “But then after I was done down there, the guys would say, ‘OK, come on up.’ I’d say, ‘No, I’ll meet you at the other end.’”


Love, American style

No matter where she has gone or worked, Bonny returned home looking forward to seeing her husband, Bill, who brought her to Powell years ago. As a matter of fact, Bill and Bonny will be celebrating their 50th anniversary later this month.

Bill met Bonny in a parking lot between semesters at Montana State University after returning from Vietnam. He served in the Army in an artillery unit before returning to school.

They became better acquainted when Bill began dating her roommate the following semester. Bill realized he had eyes for Bonny and was dating the wrong girl.

“It occurred to me,” he said when pressed whether he thought about Bonny while dating her friend. “Fortunately, [dating her roommate] didn't work out.”

The two hit it off instantly, first as friends and then they dated exclusively. Finally, Bill invited Bonny out to a Bozeman steakhouse and popped the question while presenting a ring he purchased with money he earned as a logger.

The ring didn’t fit. Regardless, Bonny said yes.

Bill says Bonny was endearing in their youth because “she was willing to kind of put up with me.”

They took a week for their honeymoon, driving to Seattle in a “good, old standard” Mazda pickup to see the World's Fair, she said.



Whether on her power scooter, her riding lawnmower or by car, Bonny keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. She said she enjoys long road trips to see friends.

She’s the queen of dropping by folks who would never expect her to do so. She’ll grab a friend and head hundreds of miles to visit a friend or a loved one in need without calling ahead.

“I just show up,” she said. “I’m good like that.”

The last trip she took she invited a friend and went to Texas to see a friend who was fighting cancer.

“He was really going through a rough time. But I didn't tell him we were going to show up and the first thing he said when we got there was ‘what the hell are you doing here?’” she said.

Sometimes she just wants to be on the road and will go to the Grand Canyon or other adventurous locations. Bill and Bonny are used to periods of separation. After working in the oil fields around the state, Bill was “downsized” and became a long-haul trucker. He’d be gone for days at a time shipping goods and escorting bees from Montana to the West Coast and back for several years.

Through it all they have more than just endured; they thrived.


Troop support continues

Bonny and several other Powell residents, including co-founder Ann Ruward among many volunteers, decided to start the group, pledging local service members would never be treated like they were during the Vietnam War.

“We said it was not going to be like Vietnam, come shell or high water,” Bonny said.

The group can be found at craft shows selling handmade goods to benefit the organization and under the grandstand at the Park County Fair asking folks to adopt rubber duckies with the proceeds paying for goods and postage to send boxes of surprises to Powell soldiers.

The deliveries were so regular other soldiers would show up at the post office when they knew Powell soldiers were getting a box from Troop Support.

“Our guys would always share,” she said. “I would always tell our guys that if there's somebody that needs something, please give us their name and address.”

While most call her Bonny, Bonita is her legal name. In Spanish, bonita means beautiful. How her parents knew she would turn out to be such a beautiful person is tough to say, but Bill says Bonny takes after her mother, Elva Sundberg.

Elva died seven years ago this coming Sunday and was known for having the most beautiful flower beds on the block. She took meticulous care of them and her garden harvests were always abundant. She canned and made delicious meals from her garden for anyone who was visiting. And she also was known to keep moving forward no matter what happened, whether on a fun road trip or simply over life’s speed bumps. Sound familiar?

Donations for Troop Support can also be sent by check to 1054 Road 9 in Powell or dropped off with Ann Ruward at H&R Block.