Dorothy (Bonnell) Bronchella, 95, WWII Veteran Active in Haverhill Civic Groups

Dorothy (Bonnell) Bronchella, 95, died peacefully at the Hannah Duston Healthcare Center on Thursday, Aug. 23.

Affectionately referred to as Dot, Dottie May, Aunt Dot, Mrs. B, mother, and Grammy by those who knew and loved her, she will be forever be remembered by her eternal optimism, unyielding energy, and deep faith. She was tireless in her commitment to her family, her church, and her local community.

Bronchella was a WWll veteran. She began her service to country as a volunteer in the Massachusetts Women’s Defense Club, then joined up and served as a Navy W.A.V.E She graduated from the Chicago School of Aviation Instruments at the Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., and served as Seaman 1st Class Aviation Technician, and a Chaplain’s secretary.

For her church, Bronchella was an active organizer and talented musical professional. She became a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Haverhill in 1937 (baptized in 1928), where she served as choir director and member of the Westminster Guild until it disbanded in 1998. Additionally, she gave many the privilege of hearing her play, performing for Sunday services, wedding and funerals at just about every church and funeral home in town.

She was the glue of the Bonnell family, as both genealogy documentarian and family reunion organizer. She spent decades traveling the country to research the Bonnell history, until technology finally caught up with her and she could conduct searches online.

Her dedication to accuracy is best remembered by family as the year her loving husband George accidently set a table on fire while lighting their small grill. Dottie (always level-headed in emergency) ran into the house, quickly returning with the most logical tool for a situation like this: Her camera. When she discovered the fire had already been put out, she insisted the men restart the blaze, so that she could accurately document the event.

As a master quilter and knitter, many of us were blessed with her gifts of hand-sewn quilts and carefully knit, colorful afghans. She competed in various quilting competitions, donated countless blankets and hats to retirement homes, and would keep small knit mittens on hand, in the event she came upon a child who had forgotten their pair at home.

Bronchella was a lifelong resident of Haverhill. Born in 1923, the daughter of the late John R. and Grace E. (Hartford) Bonnell, she graduated from Haverhill High School with the class of 1941. After returning from the Navy, she raised her three children in her house on “S” Street. She was a founding member of the Haverhill Garden Club, a member of the D.A.R., and a volunteer at the Haverhill Public Library.

She is predeceased in death by her husband, George V. Bronchella, her sisters Ellen Partridge, Grace E. Daly, and Evelyn Dryer, and her brother John R. Bonnell, Jr.
She is survived by her brother Kenneth M. Bonnell (Greenville, Miss.), daughters, Mary Ellen Riback (Plainville, Conn.) and Nancy Jeanne Brochella (Hawaii), son James Bronchella (Las Vegas, NV), son-in-law, John Riback (Plainville, six grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, their children and grandchildren who will miss her deeply and remember her fondly.

Arrangements under the direction of Dole, Childs & Shaw Funeral Home, 148 Main St., Haverhill, will be private.