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Still Dancing

Local woman, 90, continues to tap dance

September 5, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

CAROGA - Marion "Bonnie" Yates Buchner said she has a philosophy of life that is similar to the old motto of New York state.

Let each become all that he or she is capable of being.

"I added or she," she noted with a laugh.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Marion “Bonnie” Yates Buchner points out her most recent dancing award Wednesday at her residence at the Lakeside Motel on Canada Lake in Caroga.

In her life, Buchner has proven herself capable of being many things. She has received numerous honors in fields, both social and academic.

Throughout her 90 years of achievement, dancing has been an almost constant companion.

Buchner, born in Fultonville, but now the owner and proprietor of the Lakeside Motel on Canada Lake, began dancing when she was 4 years old. By the time she was 15, she had her own dance studio.

Friends of her family had a grocery store, she said, and they agreed to let her use the top floor as a dance studio.

When she was 16, the class held its recital. More than 50 students performed in its inaugural recital.

"I think the recital got me into Cortland," she said.

At Cortland

She had skipped kindergarten, she said, so she was a 17-year-old college freshman. At that time, she declined a job offer to dance with the famed Radio City Music Hal Rockettes. Her mother had advised her to finish college first.

At what is now the State University of New York at Cortland, Buchner played tennis, basketball and field hockey, according to the Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame website - She danced there under instructor Mary Washington Ball, who she said was "absolutely" a mentor and inspiration.

Buchner also taught dance to children at the local YWCA.

However, after earning her degree in 1941, and then getting married to Ronald Buchner in 1942, dancing became an occasional and casual event, she said.

In addition to having four children, Buchner also continued her education. She earned a master's degree in counseling education from SUNY Oneonta and another master's degree equivalency in Political Science and public administration from SUNY Albany, the website said. She would spend about 40 years as a guidance counselor and teacher.

"At [that] point, I was a mother, teacher and a student all at the same time," she said, explaining why dancing opportunities became rarer.

However, she still lived by her motto. While she may not have had as much time for dance, she was still involved in numerous activities.

She became president of the Women's Republican Club of Fulton County, was a speech writer and aide to former state Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. In 1960, she was invited by President Dwight Eisenhower to attend the White House Conference on Children and Youth. She also ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly.

She was a New York State Fair "Volunteer Woman of The Year," was named a Distinguished Alumna at Cortland in 1976 and in 2006 was inducted into the Cortland C-Club Hall of Fame.

"At that time, I was the only woman to achieve both," she said.

According to the website, the hall, "recognizes Cortland alumni who excelled as athletes at the college and who have since distinguished themselves in their professions and within their communities."

Bruce Buchner, Bonnie's son, said his mother and father always encouraged his education.

"Education is a lifelong process," the Buffalo resident said. "Mom is a great example of that."

Cheryl Kenney of Georgetown,?Mass., Buchner's a daughter, said at her mother's recent birthday party, she was not just struck by the size of the gathering; the diversity of people also grabbed her attention. There were people there who have known her mother from any of the times in her life - as a student, teacher, fellow mother, dancer, senior citizen, etc.

Part of that, Kenney said, is because of her mother's outgoing personality. Bonnie is able to make friends in an instant, she said.

"My mother is amazing," Kenney said.

While Buchner had other accomplishments, she also had her struggles too.

While Ronald was on leave from the Navy in 1942, the couple got married. Ronald quickly went back to service in WWII, while Bonnie intended to go back to teaching. However, as she was informed on her arrival back at work, "No married women teachers were allowed," she said.

It was another struggle that eventually got her dancing again. A number of her close relatives died over a couple of years, including her husband in 1985.

Understandably saddened, a friend who taught dance in Florida - where she has a home - invited her to come dance.

"She said, 'Come dance. We'll put a smile on your face,'" she said.

One dancing recital led to another, and so on, she said. Eventually, she represented the state in the Ms. Senior America Contest and started dancing in competitions.

Kenney said when other people see her mother dance, many people will come up to Bonnie and tell her to keep dancing. Bonnie shows people, she said, that no matter who you are, you can dance.

While she mostly dances now for other seniors to cheer them up, she said, she also teaches dance. Even if the elderly students are sitting down while they learn it.

It is something she carried over from her days as a teacher.

"I try to see the different solutions in life, try to see the different ways to solve the problems," she said.

Kenney said that positive attitude is one thing, among many, that has particularly influenced her.

"Whatever it is, don't let it get you down," she said.



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