Bonnie Carriker

Bonnie Carriker

I visited Carl and his wife, Jeannette (See Spotlight #5), in their cozy log home on Mission Road in late August. The leaves were changing and rain clouds threatened, but the coffee was hot, the cookies were fresh and the conversation was stimulating. Even “Alarm Dogs,” Tuffy and Skipper were friendly. This is what I learned:

If this lady seems familiar to you, it might be because you've seen and heard her reading Scripture on Channel 4 at 9PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. KJNP's “Closing Comments” has been one of North Pole's strongest supporters and has generously promoted our own organization's events for many years. Or, perhaps you know her from “Pastor's Partner,” which is transmitted through that same station on Radio 1170 at 11:55AM each Monday through Friday. If you haven't caught either of these programs, then you've most likely seen her around town or at a Santa's Senior’s luncheon or event. I am honored to present her inspirational story to you.

In April of 1930, Bonnie's father, a coal miner and part-time minister, traded places at work in order to preach nearby. While he was away, an explosion occurred in the Carbonado Mine that took the lives of her Uncle John and her Grandpa O'Leary. While attending the funeral, Bonnie's mother discovered she was expecting an addition to their family.

Yvonne Lorraine Bates, known to us as “Bonnie,” interrupted the Doctor's Sunday dinner and made her appearance at home on January 11, 1931 at 1PM. Her first name, chosen by her mother, was taken from a can of face powder and her middle name came from an old girlfriend of her fathers. She was the couple's third child, joining a son, Ray, and a daughter, Belle, in their Carbonado, Washington home. The Bates' were a God-fearing, Bible-believing, staunchly Christian family who remained strong in their faith and who shared a particular interest in the mission field. As a child, Bonnie doesn't remember a time when her family missed church services.

In 1935, the mine closed, so Mr. Bates moved his family east to Grand Coulee, Washington and accepted a position as an Explosives Expert/Safety Officer. They settled in, time passed and in 1939, Harry, the fourth and last of the children, joined the family. At the age of ten, Bonnie offered her public profession of faith. After hearing an African Missionary speak at her church, she knew in her heart that she, too, would actively seek a life in missionary service. In 1941, her dad's work again required a re-location, and this time it was to Panama. The children attended American schools and English speaking Native churches. The family stayed four years before returning again to Washington where they resided for the next few years.

In July of 1949, her parents, together with Bonnie and Harry, the only two children still at home, arrived in Juneau where Mr. Bates had accepted the position of Safety Engineer for the Road Commission for the Territory of Alaska. Bonnie graduated from Juneau High School in 1950. In 1953, after a period of working for the Social Security Administration and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, she was finally able to seek her Missions Diploma by attending Bible School in Springfield, Mo.

It was while she was there that Bonnie met and fell in love with fellow student, Duane Carriker. He had been stationed at Ladd AFB, and had met her father at the Fairbanks Assembly of God Church during one of his many work-related trips north. Bonnie laughed when she remembered, “I graduated on a Friday in May of 1956 and married him the next day, on Saturday.” Sadly, her father never got to see the couple happily wed, because he'd been killed in a freak accident on the Glenn Highway the previous February. One would believe he had given his blessing on this union long before May.

Although Duane still had one remaining year of Bible School to complete, the couple began to pursue their dreams of work in the mission field by accepting assignments to Nome and McGrath. It was here in Alaska that L. Duane Carriker obtained his ordination by the Assemblies of God. By then, their family had grown to four with the addition of Jan in 1957 and Leland in 1961. Soon after, another re-location was on the horizon when they were sent to Valdez where they shared ministerial duties. Duane found part-time work at the docks as a longshoreman while Bonnie stayed busy at home with children and church.

The 9.2 Alaskan Earthquake on Good Friday, March 27, 1964 was a life changer for Alaskans and especially for Bonnie and her family. Thirty people, including her beloved, Duane, were lost between the collapse of the Valdez Harbor, docks and the ship that was docked there. According to Bonnie, only two bodies were ever recovered, and her husband's wasn't one of them. After experiencing that devastating loss, Bonnie found peace and comfort in Psalm 46:1-3 that has sustained her ever since.

After the earthquake, military aircraft evacuated several of the Valdez residents to Fairbanks, via Ft. Greely. Besides Bonnie, Jan and Leland there were about 20 kids and adults from the local Children's Home who were relocated to the Children's Home on Chena Hot Springs Road . Bonnie and her family were sheltered and comforted by the District Superintendent for the Assemblies of God, Pastor and Mrs. Wilson. Bonnie, on the first of several occasions, was forced to take her kids “Outside” for care with relatives and friends. Just weeks later, Bonnie returned to Valdez to gather her belongings and was asked to stay and help pastor her church, which had been severely damaged in the quake. She retrieved her children and they stayed until August of that year, before moving to Missouri to live closer to family, friends and their church support system.

Meanwhile, Don and Gen Nelson, a missionary couple who were led to serve in northern interior villages, had a vision for broadcasting. After one false start that fell through that involved the outright purchase of a radio station in Fairbanks, they began again. A Greater Plan took root and in 1967, Bonnie was recruited from Outside to help build KJNP. Literally, on a wing and a prayer, this dream became reality when in October of 1967, they were on the air! Bonnie put down roots and made a permanent home for herself and her children here in North Pole. Throughout the years she has been the station's bookkeeper, broadcaster, camera operator and general “Jill of All Trades.”

As a TV personality herself, Bonnie admitted that in addition to KJNP's programming, she enjoys watching Channel 9, Nova, The Closer and cooking shows. With limited time to pursue outside interests, Bonnie enjoys travel and is able to get “Outside” fairly regularly. She'd love to visit Israel someday, but for the time being is content to spend time with her husband's relatives in Iowa and Missouri as well as enjoying her church conventions that are often held in Colorado, which is also close to family. She has a musical bend and is a former high soprano. Bonnie can play piano....”Should the need arise.” As far as pet peeves, Rock Music is at the top of her list along with any music that features limited and oft repeated lyrics.

In addition to her membership in Santa's Seniors, Bonnie serves as President of both KJNP and the Evangelistic Alaska Missionary Fellowship, the Licensee of KJNP Radio and TV. She also belongs to Pioneers of Alaska and First Assembly Fairbanks (honorary). She lists her gifts as being a good listener who is non-judgmental. A perfect example of this is related in Jan Thacker's book, 365 Days of Christmas While broadcasting for KJNP's “Trapline Chatter,” Bonnie played the part of “middle-woman” and translator between health aides in Beaver with a gravely ill boy and a doctor in Tanana. By relaying messages between the two villages, the boy was kept alive until an airplane could pick him up.

Although Ray and Belle have passed on, younger brother, Harry, resides in Wasilla with his “tribe” of many children, in-laws, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Bonnie is frequently in touch with her daughter, Jan Plummer, a recent widow herself, who lives in Anchorage and who is the proud mother of three sons, one daughter-in-law and one grandson. Leland, Bonnie's son, is single and also works at KJNP. The two of them share a home and as Bonnie reports, “he takes good care of me.”

An ordained minister in the Evangelistic Missionary Fellowship since 1968, Bonnie says the biggest challenge in mission today is getting the Word out to people who need it and living an exemplary life. As it is, this humble Servant would simply wish to be remembered as “A Woman of God.”

Interview & Photo by Francie Cork

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