Harry Bonk, Cape Region businessman

December 26, 2011

Harry Bonk, 85, of Rehoboth Beach, passed away peacefully at home Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.

Born April 16, 1926, in Coram, N.Y., to parents Paul and Louise (Kaleneuz) Bonk, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy March 4, 1944. He participated in the V-12 Navy training program at Dartmouth and Bucknell University and he played fullback at both Dartmouth and Bucknell.  He played in the Army-Navy football game. He later trained at North Carolina Pre-Flight. At the conclusion of World War II, many of the V-12 cadets were given the opportunity to take early discharge from the Navy program. He was discharged Sept. 18, 1945, at Shelton, Va.

Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant convinced a group of 20 former V-12 cadets to enroll at the University of Maryland to play for his football team, where Bonk played from 1945-48. He was All-American at Maryland. His contribution helped lead Maryland to its first bowl game.

He also competed on the boxing team in the heavyweight class while at Maryland. He was a member of Theta Chi and an honorary member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. He earned a bachelor of science degree in education in 1946 and a master of science degree in education in 1949.

He was awarded the Maryland Ring, given to one person for an outstanding year in athletics. He had a full-time appointment on the athletics staff of University of Maryland.  On Dec. 5, 1948, he played on the College All-Stars team against the Charlotte Clippers of the Dixie League. On Dec. 25, he played on the South squad in the Blue-Gray Football All-Star Game. He was drafted by the Boston Yanks (New England Patriots) and the Los Angeles Rams. He chose not to pursue a career in professional football.

While at the University of Maryland he met his wife of 63 years Patricia (Draper) Bonk. He came to Delaware in the summer of 1949 to help her father with his small seasonal cannery. He went on to grow it into the largest independent cannery in the United States (Draper Canning Company/Draper King Cole).

He served on the National Food Processors Board of Directors, and The National Frozen Food Association Board of Directors. He served as president of the Mid-Atlantic Food Processors. He was on the board of directors of Verizon and Liberty Mutual and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. He was past chairman of the Delaware Roundtable and served on the Delaware Highway Commission. He was also president of the Rehoboth Beach Country Club for 19 years.

He also operated Draper King Cole Inc., Draper Canning Company Inc., King Cole Ranch (the largest ranch east of the Mississippi at that time), and The Company Store Inc. (delicatessen, butcher shop and outlet grocery and gourmet stores in Milton and Rehoboth). He later partnered with his grandson, Colby Cox, on a development project, Diamond Overlook, in Milton.

He carved both decoys and whimsical birds. He was an eternal optimist, a devoted husband and father and a loyal friend. A believer in the value of hard work, he himself worked until two weeks before his death.

He leaves behind his wife Helen “Patricia” (Draper) Bonk; his daughter Karla Draper; son Harry “Hank” Bonk and wife Cindy; daughter Shauna Thompson and husband Wayne Hawkins; son Mark Bonk; niece Veronica Niccolls; nephew John Leahey; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. He will always be remembered and live on in the hearts of all of us.

Viewing will be from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, in the chapel of Short Funeral Services, 416 Federal St., Milton. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m., Friday, Dec. 30, at St. Edmond’s Catholic Church, 401 King Charles Ave., Rehoboth Beach. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to: The Harry Bonk Agriculture Scholarship Fund, c/o Linda Hopkins, 113 Townsend Hall, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.

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