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June 19, 1945 – September 27, 2023

Jerald “Jerry” Vernon Bonstrom was born in Buffalo, MN on June 19, 1945, to LaVerne (Behneke) and Vernon Bonstrom. He died on September 27, 2023, in Roseville, MN.

Jerry attended Buffalo schools and as a child learned to play piano and eventually the organ, which became a lifelong passion that upheld the legacy of his musically gifted family. After high school, he enrolled in St. Cloud State University where he received a degree in Vocal Music Education.

Following college graduation, Jerry was drafted into the Army and completed basic training at Fort Campbell, KY. His military occupation specialty was Army Bandsman, Piano. During his two years in the Army, he spent time at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs before returning to Fort Campbell as a member of the 81st Army Band.

After his military service, Jerry put his teaching degree to use and spent the better part of two decades teaching vocal music to Junior and Senior High School students in North St. Paul-Maplewood as well as students in two parochial grade schools.

In 1986, Jerry joined the Hennepin County Library system where he expanded his education in Library Science and held Librarian positions at Brookdale and Minneapolis Central, where he worked until his retirement in December 2020.

Throughout his life, in addition to being a librarian and teacher, Jerry shared his gift of music with various Twin City churches where he served as Choir Director and Organist.

Jerry was a trailblazer in healthy living and exercised daily by walking and swimming. He enjoyed traveling and had a passion for cars.

Jerry is survived by his sister, Jeanne (J. David) Dixon; nieces, Wendy (Doug), Tracy (Bob), Kelly (Giles) and Cami (Neil); great-nephews, Elijah, Benjamin, Rio, and Vahn; and numerous friends and colleagues.

Funeral Services for Jerry will be held on Saturday, October 7, 2023 at 11:00am at St. John’s Evangelical  Lutheran Church, in Buffalo with visitation beginning at 10:00am.

In lieu of flowers, please send memorials in Jerry’s honor to St. John’s Lutheran Church Music Ministries.



21 Guestbook Entries

  1. Ginny Elliott Russell

    I was very fortunate to have known Jerry for many years. We attended school together from kindergarten through 12th grade. We ended up sitting next to each other in a lot of classes and it was a challenge to see which one of us could keep from laughing or talking. Jerry I frequently kept up with each other through phone calls or emails and we saw each other at high school reunions, the most recent being August 17th. Jerry was a talented, intelligent man. He will be missed.

  2. Dillon Young

    I worked with Jerry for many years in the library. I started as an intern when he was at Brookdale Library. Jerry was always such a great man, friendly librarian, and had such a great, subtle sense of humor. Most importantly, he was a caring friend. He will be missed.

  3. Marge Lundeen

    I met Jerry when we traveled to Europe with the Wright County Chamber Chorus in 1999. I enjoyed his sense of humor and his love of music and books. He was a great conversationalist. The bonus was having fun with his mother and sister. May he rest in peace.

  4. Mary Moore

    I worked with Jerry at the downtown Minneapolis Library in the Art/Music area and remember him fondly. He was a real musician who helped me answer our toughest music questions. He was also a lovely guy to know. My condolences to his family.

  5. Rita Varner-Otness

    Jeanne and family, I am sending my sympathy and prayers for you at this difficult time. I did not know Jerry but he sounds like a great guy and I know you will miss him. God is with you.

  6. Becky Rech

    I worked with Jerry at Minneapolis Central. I started subbing at the desk with Jerry and learned so much about answering music reference questions. He was kind and Dillon is so right about Jerry’s “great, subtle sense of humor.” He and I would catch up on what musical theater we had seen or what we were planning on seeing. Just this weekend before I learned of his passing, we were at the Wild game; I was enjoying the organ music and thought, “Hey, I wonder where Jerry is playing these days.”

  7. Beth Breiter

    I was so fortunate to have worked with Jerry at both Brookdale and Minneapolis Central library. He was such a kind person and always a joy to work with. He helped countless library patrons throughout the years and his knowledge of music was of great value to the library and its patrons. My condolences to his family and friends.

  8. Margaret Schuster

    Jerry was such a great guy! I worked with him at both libraries and enjoyed his open spirit towards all of our patrons and benefited from his willingness to help with volunteer projects and with helping me understand more about the music collection. He was always a team player. Rest in peace, Jerry.

  9. Margaret Daly

    I worked with Jerry at Minneapolis Central Library while subbing there. He was so kind, friendly and passionate about music. He also had a great sense of humor which he shared with all of us. It was always a joy to work with him. We will miss him.

  10. Steve Mannie

    I had the pleasure of working with Jerry for about a decade or so at Minneapolis Central Library. Nothing but good memories and fun chats with him.

    My condolences to his loved ones; he’ll be missed by many.

  11. Hank and Linda Van Erp

    Rest in peace Jerry. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jerry’s family. Jerry played the organ for our wedding 42 years ago and he did a beautiful job.

  12. Kristine Bonstrom Vial

    May you rest in peace Jerry. My father, Orlin, will be pleased to see you – the two of you shared a wonderful sense of humor and a love of music. I will always remember your kindness, generosity, and great sense of humor. God Bless.

  13. Darnell Hancock

    Jerry played the organ at our Christian Science church in New Brighton for many years as a substitute. He was a very kind and gentle man with a genuine warmth and it was reflected in the music he played. He will be missed. We will always be grateful for his presence in our lives. Much love to the family.

  14. Marcelyn Sletten

    Jerry was a great asset to public service at Hennepin County Library. Not only with connecting patrons to music resources but with his unfailing patience and kindness in interacting with a diversity of library users. It was a privilege to work with him. His dry humor was a plus!
    Rest in peace. 

  15. Kim Kowalke

    “Kind and gentle” are adjectives that recur in these tributes to Jerry. I couldn’t agree more. I lagged behind Jerry in high school at Buffalo — by three years and by trailing his musical talent as an accompanist for choirs and then the Bisonaires. We lost touch with college and military service for both of us, but reconnected for the Wright County Arts productions in the early 70s. And then, when I became principal conductor of a musical theater on Cape Cod, Jerry spent a season as choral master and associate conductor, so we got to work side by side. I’ll never forget Thanksgiving weekend in 1971, when we met in NYC, the first for us both and went to three Broadway shows and the Rite of Spring ballet. We saw, back to back, the original productions of Sondheim’s Company and Follies. We stayed up late trying to come to grips with these “concept musicals,” so different from what we had encountered with “Li’l Abner” and “Carousel” in Buffalo’s productions. We stayed in touch sporadically, but whenever we got together for a lunch or some sort of reunion, we just picked up where we had left off. He was, as is known in German, a true “Mensch,” an authentic, giving, curious, talented, and generous human being. I will miss him greatly. My condolences to Jeannie and his beloved nieces and their families.

  16. Bethany Wagenaar

    I had the pleasure of working with Jerry at the Brookdale Library. As so many others have mentioned, I remember his patience, kindness and quiet humor. He shared his love and knowledge of music in the library community and beyond. He will be missed.

  17. Gail Mauer

    I was one of the lucky ones, to be able to work with Jerry at the Brookdale Library. He was a wonderful person, kind and always helpful to staff and library patrons. And yes, a sly sense of humor. He shared his music knowledge and skills as an organist and librarian with many. He was a true organ scholar – I remember him talking about touring to explore great organs of Europe. I will miss him in many ways – even remembering little things like long ago chance meetings at local Byerly’s where his cart always had healthier stuff than mine! God bless.

  18. Tonya Krysinski

    So many kind and accurate sentiments have already been expressed. What more can I add? I first worked with Jerry at the Brookdale Library more than 20 years ago. In more recent years I had the pleasure of working with him at Minneapolis Central Library. He was always such a comforting presence and fun to talk to. We had music in common, but he was surely much more of an organ, church, and vocal music expert than me! He knew all about the most magnificent pipe organs around the world. On Christmas Eve of 2019 he played at a small Lutheran church not far from me, so I dashed over there for the service. It was not a magnificent organ, but I’m glad I had a chance to hear him play. He kindly gave me a ride home. I will miss him.

  19. Jim Sexton

    Yep, he was kind and gentle for sure. I tuned Jerry’s piano for many years. Was sad to hear of his sudden passing. He’ll be missed by many. Really good guy.

  20. Bob Zahler

    I will always remember Jerry fondly for gently helping me get through my first “big” audition with Wright County Arts back in 1979. Knowing how nervous and ill prepared I was, he made sure I shined the best that I could. I was glad that we had the opportunity to travel together 20 years later when he accompanied the Wright County Chamber Chorus in Europe. Watching him skillfully play a big 18th century organ in Vienna will be a lasting memory. We also had the opportunity to get acquainted as adults during the trip and I came to admire him even more for his thoughtful approach to everything. My sympathy to the family.

  21. Ruthie Lacina

    I sit close to the organ here in Bonita Sprinfs on Sundays just to remember how talented Jerry was. As youngsters we played in that great upstairs theatre in back of his house. I loved him so.


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