Bonita Azzelle “Bonnie” Smith

Bonita Azzelle “Bonnie” Smith, 74, of Mountain Grove, Missouri, passed away February 11, 2015.

She fought a long hard battle with COPD and spent her final days at home with her family and friends reminiscing and laughing about fond memories. Some would say she lost her battle, but if you were to ask her, she would tell you she won, never letting her illness control how she enjoyed her life and the people within it, even to the very end.

Bonnie Lester was born in Blytheville, Arkansas, June 9, 1940 to William L. Lester, Sr. and wife Azzelle McGee. She grew up in a large family filled with hard work, plenty of laughter and lots of love. That is just how she was determined to raise her family. Storytelling, coffee drinking on the deck and spending time in the kitchen laughing with her family were some of her very favorite activities.

One of her favorite stories was of the family pet pig named Petunia, which exemplified the country life she grew up in and dearly loved. Spoiled like a puppy would be, her beloved farm pig was lost after a binge of buttermilk and biscuits, always reminding us that we can have too much of a good thing. Petunia was followed by a series of pets including Dalmatians, cows, Labs, stray cats, a pot-bellied pig, a small goat and an opossum named Possie.

Whatever animal her kids and grandkids drug home, she loved it with all her heart. She spread her love of the farm to friends and family alike, never letting anyone leave her house without a home-cooked meal and a good conversation. Her family couldn’t count the number of times friends and people from the Mountain Grove area would approach with stories of how Bonnie helped to make their lives better. All that Bonnie did was so that she could make a good home for her and her family in Mtn. Grove. Even family that was born and grew up elsewhere called Mtn. Grove home, for the simple fact of that is where they went to visit Bonnie.

Bonnie and her husband Bob moved to Mountain Grove the summer of 1982 and set deep roots into the community. Bob and Bonnie owned and operated a small chain of convenience stores named Country Express. For 35 years Bonnie worked alongside Bob as his bookkeeper and helpmate building a very successful business. Once they retired, Bonnie often commented that a retired husband was a wife’s full-time job. Bonnie was also very active in the Mtn. Grove community, as a member of the Wright County Board for the Developmentally Disabled for over 20 years. As part of that board she touched many lives by approving funding for the county’s disabled children and adults from activities as small as a life skills class at Mtn. Grove High School to helping build the Emma Barber Group Home where her daughter Elaine currently resides.

Bonnie is survived by her husband, Robert “Bob” Smith; her sons, Vincent Via and fiancé Tracy Nicholas, and Martin and Kimberley Via; daughters, Elaine Smith and Tanya Wert; grandchildren, Cassie Via Doty, Christina Odle Smith, Jennifer Odle Taylor, Courtney Odle, Dale Wert and Elijah Wert; and great-grandsons, Brady Taylor and Jaxson Smith.

Bonnie grew up with seven brothers and sisters. She is preceded to heaven by four of her brothers and sisters, Jim Lester, Frances Ashby, William “Dubbie” Lester, and T-Neil Samac. She is survived by Patricia Stow, Katy Merriman and Sam Lester. Bonnie also has a multitude of nephews and nieces that she held dear to her heart.

Services were held at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 17, 2015, at Living Stones Assembly of God Church in Mtn. Grove with C.L. Stage officiating. Pallbearers were Vincent Via, Martin Via, Ben Pursifull, Samuel Lester, John Criswell and Tom Etling. Honorary pallbearers were Dale Wert and Eli Wert. Interment was in Hillcrest Cemetery in Mtn. Grove under the direction of Elliott-Gentry-Carder Funeral Home of Cabool, Missouri. Online condolences may be made at

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