Bonita Harris

Bonita Harris was born to Otto F. Prokop and Lois J. Prokop June 13, 1933, growing up in an 8x10 tarpaper shack on the prairies near Kadoka, S.D.The tiny home became more crowded after brother, Veryl, joined the family.
Days were full with hauling water in a horse drawn wagon from the river miles away, haying, caring for stock and the everyday life of living in the depression-era ’30s.
Education was important to the family and when she grew beyond country schools, Bonita worked at the Pearl Hotel to pay for her room and board while attending Kadoka High School. After graduation, she found a job with the government and traveled first to McIntosh, S.D., then White River, S.D., where the ladies in the office hooked her up with Clair Harris when he arrived home from Korea. Due to a blizzard delaying the wedding, they were married on Christmas Day in 1955. Their daughter, Sheri, arrived nine months later, followed by Jane in 1960.
Bonita had a small herd of cattle, but no land to run them on. After leasing pasture for many years, her goal was to have a ranch, and in 1968 that dream came true when she and Clair bought a ranch outside of Custer, S.D.
Bonita went to work answering phones for the Forest Service and moving her way up the hierarchy until she became a financial officer for Black Hills National Forest. She ran the ranch and raised her two girls while Clair was on the road working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bonita was active in Custer and area communities. In the early ’70s, she was involved in saving the Custer Hospital, typing and mailing over 800 letters urging people to band together to keep the hospital open in the growing community.
She was heavily involved with Custer’s Gold Discovery Days Celebration, serving as director of the Pageant’s Second Act, lining up parade entrants, handling advertising and a multitude of jobs to keep things rolling. She also helped to start the Southwest Dakota 4-H Rodeo, serving in many capacities along with Clair.
Clair and Bonita helped to bring the World Horseshoe Tournament to Spearfish, S.D., in 1989 and 1993, where Clair competed and Bonita worked tallying scores, selling souvenirs, and wherever she was needed. They traveled all over the U.S. attending world tournaments.
Bonita also was active in the Republican Party, serving in many capacities from delegate to poll worker. A love of camping lead to her helping form the Paha Sapa Good Sam Campers group. Many weekends were filled with friendship and fun as they traveled around the area to different campouts. She also was an active member of many organizations ranging from BPO Does to VFW Auxiliary to Eastern Star.
After retirement Bonita and Clair traveled to the warmer south, landing in a new resort in Casa Grande, Ariz., where they spent nearly 30 winters with their beloved snowbird family at Val Vista RV Resort. There, Bonita was able to pursue her love of music and joined the band where she played guitar, harmonica, mandolin and sang. After many squeaky, squawky practice sessions, she added the fiddle to her repertoire, teaching herself to read music and play the difficult instrument.
Bonita loved her family, her community, her cows, her music, her multitude of interests and her many friends who gathered together often to celebrate whatever needed celebrating.
Bonita, of Custer, passed away Dec. 3, 2023. She was 90.
She was preceded in death by her parents; and her doting husband, Clair.
Bonita will be missed by her loving family, including the grandchildren and great -grandchildren who spent many hours being fussed over by Grandma.
Arrangements have been placed in the care of Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home in Custer.

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