Remembering Bonner Jackson; Washington mourns the loss of an icon

Published 6:30 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Bonner Lee Jackson was as iconic to Washington as Bill’s Hot Dogs. Jackson, 68, spent his life loving his community, family and church and in turn, they loved him just as much. 

Washington lost Jackson, a fixture in the community, on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. The news was shared by Roanoke Christian Camp where Jackson worked for nearly 50 years. One hundred people shared their condolences on a Facebook post from the camp. They remember his faithfulness to the camp, how sweet he was and how much he was loved by all who had the honor of meeting him. 

Known for riding a tricycle through town, there were few people Jackson didn’t know. It was rare for him to meet a stranger. When greeting someone, he would ask, “how you doing” and how they knew him. 

Of the nearly 45,000 residents in Beaufort County including almost 10,000 residents in Washington, Steven Hill believes 95% of them either knew Jackson or saw him ride a tricycle through town with two flags sticking up from the bike. Hill, a retired pastor from First Christian Church in Washington, was a close friend of Jackson’s and gave his eulogy at a private service. 

Watching scenes in his mind of Jackson riding a bike through town, Hill guessed Jackson had three tricycles in his adult life – maybe four – because he rode so often. Jackson would visit friends, businesses and his church when he wasn’t working at Roanoke Christian Camp. 

He lived across the street from the camp and each morning rode his bike there with a smile on his face, Hill shared. 

Jackson’s primary responsibilities at Roanoke Christian Camp were cleaning the dorms and crushing soda cans, but campers remember him for so much more. They conversed with him, laughed with him and were comforted by him when they were sad about being away from their parents. 

Jackson’s legacy at the camp took physical form when a pavilion was named in his honor in 2016. It is the only building at the camp that is named after a person. 

“There was no better building at the camp we could have dedicated in Bonner’s name than that pavilion, because that pavilion would become the hub of the two things Bonner most loved about Roanoke Christian Camp, worship and fellowship,” Stuart Woodley said at Jackson’s service. Woodley is the board chairman of Roanoke Christian Camp. 

Amy and Kevin Alligood grew up going to Roanoke Christian Camp and they attended First Christian Church. In poor weather or when Jackson was physically unable to go to church, they would pick him up and take him to church. 

“Kevin and I don’t really remember life without Bonner,” Amy wrote to the Daily News. “He was a camp feature every summer and Kevin was one of the few people that Bonner would let ride his bike.  I use the word feature because he really was an attraction. Later in life,  Kevin kept the tires pumped up and even purchased some when he would wear them out.” Kevin Alligood owned Quality Tires on Third Street in Washington. 

Jackson faithfully attended and worshiped First Christian Church where would occasionally want to tell Hill, when Hill was pastor there, something important during the service. Sometimes it was a prayer request or it was about something happening in town, but other times, Jackson wanted to say a prayer for Roanoke Christian Camp before it opened for the summer. 

Ric Watford, a former Dean and teacher at the camp, wrote to the Daily News, “Bonner was always coming to visit and when the camp manager at that time hired Bonner to help out in any way he could, the camp staff and the campers had a friend for life.  His contagious smile and laugh and love for Jesus has made him a forever memory at Roanoke Christian Service Camp!” 

Jackson’s wishes for his service were fulfilled by his family. He requested a private, graveside service where those in attendance sang his favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me.” The service took place at Oakdale Cemetery in Washington. A celebration of Jackson’s life will be held on Oct. 21 at Roanoke Christian Camp. A time has not been determined.