J.P. “Red” Bonnette was one of the longest-serving trustees in the history of Deer Park schools, having served on the School Board from May 1956-Aug. 1987. During his 31 years on the DPISD Board of Trustees, Mr. Bonnette served in a leadership role as vice president, secretary, and president. Enrollment grew from 2,301 to 8,869, and eight campuses were opened during his tenure as a trustee.
Born in Polk County, he moved to Deer Park in 1950 and started a family with his wife, Velma. Their two children are Deer Park High School graduates, and there are six Bonnette grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Mr. Bonnette worked for 20 years as an operator at the Shell Oil Refinery, but he also worked in the insurance business for much of his life. He passed away in September 1995.
Bonnette’s daughter, Vicki Thompson, says her father never talked about what inspired him to dedicate so much of his time to being on the Board of Trustees. “I don't know if he ever said why he ran for the board, but he was a very civic-minded person and liked being involved in things that would make Deer Park a better place to live and raise his children,” she says. “I really don't know exactly why he stayed on the Board so long except that he enjoyed being a part of all the progress and growth the district made over the years.”
Thompson said she thinks her father was proud of being able to help build and maintain DPISD’s reputation as one of the best school districts in the state. “I would like my father to be remembered as a kind, gentle man who was always generous with his time and was always striving for success for his family and his community,” she says.
Bonnette was a founding member of the Deer Park ISD Historical School Museum Committee and a longtime member of the Deer Park United Methodist Church. He was the owner of Bonnette Insurance Agency, a member of the Allied Deer Park Bank Board of Directors, and was a charter member of the Deer Park Rotary Club, which he served as director and president. Mr. Bonnette was recognized by the State Legislature as “a distinguished Texan” on July 7, 1987. In honor of “one of our most outstanding citizens,” Sept. 24, 1987 was designated by the school district and City of Deer Park as “J.P. Bonnette Day.” That day, longtime school district employee Mary Elizabeth Stephenson presented Bonnette with a poem, “A Tribute to J.P.”:
A TRIBUTE TO J.P.
It all started back in fifty-six
When this district was very small
With growing pains looming in the distance
J.P. Bonnette answered the call.
He became a member of the School Board
Not expecting to spend his life
To help with all the planning
Keeping the district free from strife.
He watched as plans for new schools were made
With nothing ever remaining the same
Never in his wildest dreams
Did he think one school would bear his name.
The years haven’t always been easy
But, then, the road to success never is
This district has had so many honors
And much of the credit is his.
This man of quiet demeanor
Supported our community in many ways
With his, his talents and donations
So that first rate we would stay.
The spirit of J.P. will always be
A shining example through the years
What greater honor could be bestowed
Than the love and respect of one’s peers.
Mary Elizabeth Stephenson, September 1987