Bonnabeau cared for, respected veterans

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2011 - 4:30 PM

After he retired from the Army as a major general, he worked at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Charles Bonnabeau was a physician who dedicated much of his career to caring for military veterans. But the doctor had other accomplishments as well. For example, a mountain in Antarctica is named for him.

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Maj. Gen. Raymond Charles Bonnabeau was a physician who dedicated much of his career to caring for military veterans.

But the doctor had other accomplishments as well. For example, a mountain in Antarctica is named for him.

Bonnabeau's family says the tireless husband and father of four children had a zeal for life and was a humble, hard worker, serving as a physician at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center up until his death from cancer on Feb. 26. He was 77.

"He respected the vets tremendously," said Bonnabeau's son Raymond. "He treated the vets with the respect they needed and deserved. Being a doctor was a vocation for him. It wasn't just punching the clock."

Born and raised in Valley Stream, N.Y., Bonnabeau earned a bachelor's degree from Fordham University before obtaining his medical degree from the State University of New York medical school in 1959. He went on to earn a doctorate in surgery from the University of Minnesota, becoming a clinical professor of surgery and participating in pioneering work in heart surgery with Dr. C. Walton Lillehei.

It was around this time Bonnabeau went to the Antarctic in 1960 as physician for the University of Minnesota Geological Expedition that discovered the Jones Mountain Range. Bonnabeau Dome was named for him.

Raymond Bonnabeau said his father met his mother, Mary, while he was at the U and she was studying to be nurse. The two married in 1963. He did a short stint as a disc jockey and performed in a number of local Shakespearean plays.

In his nearly 30 years in the Army, Bonnabeau served in a number of posts: in Vietnam as chief of surgery at the 95th Evacuation Hospital (China Beach); commander of the 73rd Combat Support Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the 5501st Army Hospital in Fort Snelling; the 30th Hospital Center in Chicago; and deputy surgeon general of the Army for mobilization and reserve affairs. He retired in 1994 as a major general.

From the mid-1970s until about 1986, Bonnabeau said his father also operated a private practice in St. Paul. After that, he went to work at the Veterans Medical Center, a job that became a passion.

"He tried to treat everybody like they were him, regardless of who you were," Raymond Bonnabeau said.

In addition to his devotion to military veterans, Bonnabeau also was a devout Catholic who served the Saturday vigil mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

He is survived by his wife, Mary; sons Christopher and Raymond; daughters Mary and Margret, and six grandchildren. Services have been held.

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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