THE PASSION OF BONNIE
by Bruce Cornet
Table of Contents
Who was Bonnie? Here is a woman who lived only 40 years, was married three times, and had two children, one by each of her two first husbands. By one measure she was blessed with a father who was very loving and who earned a substantial income that allowed her family to enjoy many of the finer things in life while she grew up. By another measure she had an extremely tragic life filled with child abuse by her mother, physical and mental abuse by her first two husbands, and illness during the last ten years of her life that can only be described as apocalyptic by her and by those who knew her. Our story is similar to that depicted in the movies, Terms of Endearment, Urban Cowboy, Always, and Ghost. Terms of Endearment was filmed in Houston, TX, during the time we lived there. Anyone who is faced with a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, will need no introduction to this type of tragedy. Picture taken in March 1984.
In Memory and Reflection
Bonnie was born in Baltimore, MD, on 18 June 1950 at 1:38 am, and given the name Bonnie Lee Harrington. Her father's genealogy is Scottish, while her mother was born to Jewish immigrants from Russia. Bonnie learned to speak some Russian through her grandmother, who was born in Russia.
Her older brother told me that as children their mother would give Bonnie and him tranquilizers and sleeping pills in order to control them and keep them quiet. What kind of a mother was she? Bonnie told me how as a small child she walked into her parents' bedroom unannounced and found her mother in bed with someone whom she thought was her father. Her mother ordered her out of the bedroom before she could discover who he was. When her father came home from work she ran up the stairs calling to him, wanting to know why he came home earlier that day without saying hello to her. Her mother ran out of the bedroom, knocked her down the stairs with her fist in order to shut her up, and then claimed that she fell. That fall gave her a severe concussion. Bonnie blamed the appearance of petite mal seizures later in childhood on that brain injury. Eventually the damage led to grand mal seizures in adulthood, requiring constant medication.
Her mother on occasion when very angry with her father hired a moving company, and when her father was at work had everything in the house moved out. Her father came home to an empty house several times during her childhood! Presumably because of his forgiving nature he did not divorce her when she did this. Or did her mother have knowledge of something that had to be kept "in the family"? The child abuse by the mother, which was largely concealed from her father, resulted in delinquent behavior in both children. That abuse led Bonnie to choose a jealous and abusive man for her first husband.
The Harringtons had a large cottage in upper New York State at Gilpin Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. Bonnie told me of the many summers she spent there water skiing, boat riding, and hiking. I took a trip in 1990 to see that cottage for myself. What she described was what I found, nestled in woods on a hillside overlooking the lake. The setting reminded me of the cottage I spent many summers at in northwestern Connecticut. Even though the main building had been improved from its log-cabin appearance when Bonnie went there (siding now forms a shell around the original log cabin), I marvelled at the number of smaller cottages and buildings connected to form a small village. I saw the stuffed head of a large moose hanging over the stone fireplace, as Bonnie had described. The Tiffany lamp still hung over the main dining table. Bonnie had many fond memories of her childhood experiences there, and she loved to relate them to me.
Bonnie attended Collingswood High School, which was located behind her parents' house in Collingswood, NJ.
For those television buffs, you may recall that Michael Landon graduated from that very same high school. I find it ironic that Landon became the Star in the television series, Highway to Heaven, because it now seems that two people who graduated from that school embarked on a similar journey on that same highway. Bonnie graduated in 1968.
Bonnie got married on 10 October 1968 to Greg Nathan, her high school sweetheart in a very large ceremony and at a Catholic wedding in Oaklyn, NJ. Little did she know at the time, but she married into a mob family. She told me that her guest list included the names of some of the most notorious hit men in the mob.
Bonnie being led down the isle by her father.
At first the marriage was idealistic as the couple settled into an apartment in Oaklyn, NJ, not too far from the Catholic church where they had gotten married. Bonnie soon became pregnant with Billy. He was born on 20 July 1969 at the exact moment Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon.
But Greg was soon drafted into the Army, and was gone for long periods of time. This put a lot of stress on the young marriage, especially after Bonnie became pregnant with Billy. Greg was prone to violent tempter tantrums, and he was very jealous of his new wife, who had been so popular in high school that she was invited to every Senior Prom, even as a Freshman. After having difficulty adjusting to a military lifestyle, and after Bonnie moved in with her aunt in Florida in order to be close to him, the Army agreed to allow Bonnie to live on the base with Greg when he was stationed in Alabama. But Greg mistreated Bonnie when on leave, taking his jealousy and anger out on her in the form of physical abuse. He constantly suspected her of cheating on him. The physical abuse escalated over a period of several years until one morning he exploded in rage when she offered to fix him breakfast in bed. He interpreted that offer as a sign of guilt over having been unfaithful to him. Their marriage ended that morning when he killed her (medical diagnosis of death) with a blow to her lower back, which ruptured her kidney. She collapsed to the floor in great pain, and then went unconscious.
The next thing Bonnie knew she was viewing a doctor and nurses trying to save her in a hospital emergency room. She saw them cover her body with a sheet and move it to the morgue. She was out of her body. No psychiatrist would convince her otherwise. The Intern who had tried to save her stayed with her body. When he was alone in the morgue, he began praying for her. She told me that she could "hear" his thoughts, but no sounds (shades of the movie, Ghost). She knew she was out of her body, because she no longer felt any pain. She said the feeling was one of absolute and indescribable bliss. As she looked down at him standing next to her body, she saw him praying as he looked at her face. He began crying over losing his first patient, someone so young and so beautiful. She "heard" his prayers, and then began to feel his tears drop on her face. She said she could not bear to see him cry for her, and thought that his emotional pain was far worse to bear than the physical pain of a broken body. She decided to re-enter her body in order to stop him from crying. The next thing she knew she was back in her body. She woke up to find a body tag on her toe. You can imagine the Intern's shock and elation. Today her revival would not be considered a miracle - just a misdiagnosis of death; that is, a near-death experience!
After a miraculous recovery, she moved back in with her parents in Collingswood, NJ. The only business with Greg that remained was finalizing a divorce and getting custody of Billy. About a year later, however, she met Bill on a blind date. She said she got married in order to get out of her parents' house and away from her mother. She called her second marriage a marriage of convenience. She regarded her move as a temporary life raft, and it did give her an opportunity to prove herself in this world, gain some self-respect, and reach a modicum of success. On 25 April 1974 Chuck William Marzi was born to Bonnie and Bill Marzi.
In 1975 Bonnie and Bill moved back to 428 Richey Ave. in Collingswood, New Jersey, but this time into the upstairs apartment in a duplex owned by Bonnie's father. Up until May 1977 Bonnie remained a housewife and mother, taking care of two children, while Bill continued to work at IBM as a computer hardware specialist (he now works for NASA as a computer hardware consultant). But Bonnie became restless, and wanted to do something more in line with a growing career interest in the medical profession. On 2 May she began a three month course in hypnosis taught by Jim Forberg and Susan G., three nights a week at the Alpha Institute in Cherry Hill, NJ. This was also the same month my wife Ginny and I moved down to Houston, Texas, to begin my new job at Gulf Oil Corporation after completing a doctorate degree at Penn State. For both Bonnie and me, this was a time of major change in our careers. Later in November she took private sessions to improve skills at hypnosis with Isabel B. and Forberg.
In May she also started taking classes at GeorgeAnn's Finishing and Modeling School in Oaklyn, NJ, in order to become a professional model. She remembered her first experience at modeling back-to-school clothes at Bamberger's Department Store when she was 14, and wanted to try modeling again. She was nearly 27, and for the first time since high school she began taking action towards improving herself. Problems with her parents and ex-husband seemed to be just bad nightmares in her past. But some of the worst trials and experiences of her life had not yet happened, and fortunately they did not descend on her until she had reached professional success and excellence in her life. For the next 28 months Bonnie would grow and blossom into a flower even more beautiful than before. She was Bonnie! This was a period of learning and preparation for her.
On 20 July 1977 Bonnie got her diploma for successfully completing a program in Professional Hypnosis Training at the Alpha Institute. On 18 August she and Bill purchase their first house at 238 Lincoln Ave. in Collingswood. It was an old but beautiful two story white house with a regal facade of columns for the front porch, and a big back yard for the kids. On 10 November she joined the Hypnotists Union, Local No. 477, and began planning to go into business with Jim Forberg, her former teacher. The only thing that went wrong that year was her receiving a neck and back injury in a car accident. During the summer she was sitting in her parked Renault at a shopping market when she was struck from behind by a drunk teenage driver. She had to sue her own insurance company for money to cover her medical expenses, because the driver was uninsured. She said she got whiplash and pulled shoulder muscles, and wore a neck brace for awhile. Her medical claims amounted to over $1,300. She would complain later on in life about her neck and back giving her problems, and attribute her discomfort to that accident. She also stayed off another legal attempt by Greg to get custody of Billy.
In a letter to me dated 19 December 1991, Jim Forberg recalled the events surrounding his meeting Bonnie:
"In the middle seventies I was in partnership with Susan [G.], in a company called Alpha Institute in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We formed the company to practice hypnosis therapy and also to teach the ethical practice of Hypnosis to professionals that could use the altered state in their practice. The door was open also to individuals who were contemplating the use of hypnosis in various fields of endeavor.
"The exact date escapes me, but sometime during 1977 Bonnie signed up for classes in the practice of Hypnosis. There seemed to be a deep recognition that occurred when we first met. I seemed to have known her forever, and yet we were strangers in this time. The same was true for Bonnie, but I didn't find that out for some time. She did extremely well in the practice sessions, and also in the written exams we gave all of our students.
"Over the months of her schooling I noticed that she was very comfortable in all contacts with me, and I was flattered that such a young and attractive woman wasn't put off by an older man [he was in his 50's]. This closeness made it much easier for us to work together in the various areas of hypnosis.
"Bonnie of course graduated from the course, but continued to stop by the office and allow me to perform various hypnosis techniques so that she could understand more of the practice.
"It didn't surprise me that my partner started to get upset that I was paying some attention to Bonnie. The working relationship between myself and Susan (my partner) kept deteriorating and I wasn't too happy with the partnership. Bonnie surprised me one day and asked if I would set up an office with her. If I remember correctly I was somewhat non committal since I was having difficulty with Susan (a young woman and partner).
"It came as quite a surprise to me when Bonnie showed me some papers to sign for a corporation consisting of myself and her. She had hired a lawyer to draw them up, and they needed only signatures and action by the state.
"I talked to Susan about withdrawing from the partnership and she wasn't happy about that at all. She was aware that most of the patients we were seeing came because of my name and experience. Nevertheless I did withdraw from the partnership at some expense. Susan was going to sue because she was aware that the office would probably fold if I left. That was just the wrong move for her to take since I am fiercely independent. In order to avoid a long drawn out court battle, I gave her a sum of money, and the partnership was dissolved.
"Shortly after that I entered into a corporation with Bonnie. This wasn't without some trepidation since I wasn't having much luck in business with young women.
"We eventually set up for business at 228 E. Kings Highway in Haddonfield, NJ. This was an old building that had been re-worked from an old home, into a commercial building that included a druggist on the ground floor, and our office on the second floor. Eventually we discovered that a closet in our office space hid a long staircase that descended all the way to the basement of the building." That staircase took on special importance later during their partnership when they began exploring paranormal phenomena.
1978 started off with a bang. She began teaching her first course on hypnosis, started her own corporation (Alpha II), opened an office with her partner Jim Forberg in Haddonfield, and started private and group therapy sessions for patients, all in January. Bonnie even wrote a 110 page Professional Hypnotists course manual. She also had time to practice modeling for an upcoming designer's show, and take care of two children. In February she taught a course in self confidence, five more hypnosis classes, appeared at her first modeling show at the Crazy Horse Saloon, did mannequin modeling at a shop in the Cherry Hill mall, and appeared on the WMID radio show charity drive for the Leukemia Society of America. She also taught a course in how to read tarot cards for the Guild of Relaxologists. She even felt self-confident enough to treat her own mother for reducing smoking.
During that year Jim and Bonnie had 214 private and group sessions with patients for everything from weight loss, gambling, study habits, preparation for taking exams, tension, acute migraines, emotional sensitivity, mother-daughter relationships, trauma from teenage rape, comfort in sex relations, to psychotherapy, psychosomatic phobias, cancer pain, and paralysis. Together as a team they completed their first hypnotists course of ten classes. In March she and Jim appeared twice on the channel 6 TV program "Perspective: New Jersey", and talked about their work in hypnotherapy. They demonstrated hypnosis on television - the first time that had ever been done, with Bonnie playing the patient. Because of that show, she said their business jumped considerably and their reputation spread. It is that demonstration for television that I saw on public access television in October 1983 in Houston, TX. In March they also gave a talk on hypnosis at the Kiwanis International Club, and Bonnie appeared in Yankee Models Pageant in Boston and in a Disco World Fashion show.
In April and May of 1978 they taught two more hypnotists courses in addition to handling a rigorous schedule of patients. They also gave an invited lecture and demonstration for Introduction to Psychology at Trenton State College. Bonnie passed the rigid oral, written, and practical exam for membership in the Guild of Ethical Hypnotists, and received her certificate in April. That same month she became certified as a member of the International Guild of Relaxologists. They gave talks at the Rotary Club and Jaycees on hypnosis, and later that year began teaching a course called Peppy Riechtner Advanced Classes. They also found time in October through December to teach courses in parapsychology and self-hypnosis at Fort Dix. She even participated in the Miss America parade in Atlantic City, standing up front on the float carrying the 1978 Miss America winner.
Everything was going well and her future seemed bright until her husband lost his job in July. Bill was a heavy drinker, and he began to drink himself unconscious after he was laid off from IBM during that company's decline. She said she frequently came home to find beer cans littering the entire livingroom floor. Bonnie said that she rarely had sex with him after the first year of marriage because of his obnoxious behavior when he was drunk and insensitivity when they made love. Bonnie now had to take care of three children, one of which was an adult. In a signed note Bill wrote: "Because of my current income, I am unable to provide for William a normal standard of living." Bonnie had to turn to welfare assistance, because she was now getting no support for Billy from either Greg or Bill. Somehow she managed to meet her financial obligations, but the added stress began to show in her health.
In early March 1978 she began having severe pain from menstrual cramps, and was put on lasix by Dr. J. in Haddonfield, NJ, to control her menstrual period. This is the oldest record I have for medical problems that continued to plague her for the rest of her life. In April there was a change in pattern of scheduling appointments, with more cancellations and sessions grouped together as if she were trying to maintain income but was not able to work every day. This change in scheduling happened most often when Jim Forberg was away on military duty in the reserves. In July she was admitted to the hospital for D&C and menorrhagia. Her periods were severe with excess bleeding (preclampsia). She then developed severe sharp pain in her right upper quadrant, which caused her to collapse and vomit. She had a gall bladder exam and other lab tests in late July. In August she was admitted to Garden State Community Hospital for a month long evaluation. Doctors discovered lactose intolerance, cyclic edema, and idiopathic hypoglycemia. There was no explanation for her bouts with pain, however. From September through December Bonnie's work calendar shrank to just teaching courses and handling a few select patients. In early October she was diagnosed as having considerable dysmenorrhea and discomfort from non-calcareous cholexystitis. A week later she was admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, NJ, for six days for withdrawal symptomatology from morphine sulfate. Jim handled her patients. In late December Bonnie was diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infection, nasal congestion, cough productive of phlegm, fever and tender cervical adenopathy. She was placed on a regimin of elexophyllin, keflex, penicillin, and percodan for pain.
In January of 1979 Bonnie's health improved and she returned to handling her special patients while Jim handled the other patients. Together they taught Professional Hypnotists and Self-hypnosis classes through mid-March. During March Bonnie separated from Bill, who had not found a job, expected her to support him, and would not move out of their Lincoln Avenue house so that it could be sold. She rented a house at 60 E. Stiles Avenue in Haddonfield, just down the street from her office. Because of a dwindling source of income from her private practice, and because of increasing medical expenses, Bonnie started a part time job on 27 March as a claims adjuster for American International Companies (AIG) to increase her income and get medical insurance. Her annual compensation was only $6,760, but the medical benefits would be worth much more. She had an overwhelming feeling that she had to qualify for full medical coverage soon. Her pension date when she would qualify for full coverage was 1 October 1979, almost seven months away.
Her concern over money and lack of support from Bill are indicated in an undated letter: "Money is a real problem with you. You spend when you cannot afford to. It was only a matter of a couple weeks after I ran into money problems at Richey Ave. that you cut me off from sex, and stopped taking care of the house and kids [She went out looking for additional income; he didn't want to do women's work]. Once you left me, my problems started to disappear. You do not want me to have any personell [sic] contact with you, but at the same time expect me to do things for you. You can't have both. Bill."
In another undated letter to Bonnie, Bill reveals a state of mind heavily influenced by his drinking problem: "I am not saying that you and Jim are having a affair, but what ever it is, you have made it important enough to give up a marriage, home, and send Billy back to his father. It is also the same reason you went to work. When you talk about Jim or driving his car, I feel you are rubbing it in my face. I also know that you would not talk to me unless you need or want something. I also feel that the only time I get to see Chuckie is when you need a baby sitter. Bon, I had all this botteled [sic] up in me when I saw you Sunday. Inclosed [sic] is the $2 I had promised you. I hope this will be the last time that you use me. Good luck with your new life. Bill."
In the letter to me from Forberg (dated 19 December 1991), Jim wrote:
"During these times I was also employed by the U.S. Government (D.O.D.) as a trouble shooter for radar systems, gunsights (fighters), special weapons delivery systems (atomic) and rocket systems [he was involved in developing the SMART bomb, which was used in the Gulf War]. I was also teaching self-defense classes in the use of karate. All in all I was very busy.
"Most every evening, and some weekends though Bonnie and I would do the therapy and teaching that she would schedule for those times. After the scheduled sessions we would generally trade hypnosis sessions with each other as a method of relaxation. During one of these sessions while Bonnie was in a deep state she informed me that there was a lost and tortured soul in the basement of our office building. Her impression was that this woman had been retarded, and not quite sane as a child and her parents kept her in the basement of the building for most of her life. She eventually died and was buried in the basement to obviate any questions from the officials. Bonnie tried to reassure the spirit and show her how to move on to the place of light and serenity.
"If I recall this occurred several times before there seemed to be quiet from the basement. Many times after our scheduled sessions were over and I was inducing hypnosis in Bonnie I would sit on the bed next to her as I talked, and the bed, Bonnie and myself would all lift up in the air five or six inches and just kind of float there [my italics]. As I recall there wasn't any other phenomena during these times, just a kind of pleasant little rocking motion. It never was ascertained if Bonnie was causing this or myself or possibly a spirit entity.
"At the time Bonnie's health was deteriorating and a great deal of the money we were taking in was going out for her doctors and medicine. Eventually it became necessary to leave the office we were in and set up in the home she was renting. She was working days as an insurance adjuster or something, but even that she would have to leave because of health problems. This was the job though that she finally did get a small pension from.
"During these not so good days we would often indulge ourselves with regression sessions as a means of relaxation. It was during these sessions that Bonnie would report a [past] life as a southern woman that was shot from the balcony of her home by a soldier [during the Civil War]. She would also report a lifetime as an Indian woman, and mention a waterfall near her teepee."
In another letter dated 19 December 1994 (coincidentally the same date as the previous letter) Forberg indicated that there was something strange and frightening to her that he would encounter in hypnotic recall during many of her relaxation sessions:
"One experience that always disturbed me was something that happened many times. After she was deeply relaxed (in Hypnosis) she would say "Oh-Oh no, I don't want to go." She would say this in her own typical quavering voice she would use when upset or frightened. You lived with her for a long time; you may have heard that voice when she was ill, or in pain. When I would bring her back to full consciousness, I would ask her where she didn't want to go, and she would always look at me with a question in her deep dark eyes and finally say, "I don't know. It seemed strange and frightening, and I didn't want to go there, but I don't know where there is."
"This may have been a memory of an abduction you talk about. In our work with one another as far as I can remember we never tried to delve into alien abduction information, since to our conscious minds neither of us was involved or had knowledge of these things. There was one time when we were invited to a talk given by a man and his wife about their own abduction [possibly 25 May 1978], and we went. We found it interesting, but as a man who has been studying physics for years I am highly skeptical of physical space-time travel over the immense distances involved between systems. I am however keenly aware of the various possibilities in the Quantum dimensions for instant travel from one edge of the Universe to the other.
"Bonnie was interested, as I was, but she made no searching questions to the abductees. I was aware over the time period that we worked together that Bonnie looked to me for protection. I always assumed it was protection from her first husband. Bonnie told me he could get pretty mean sometimes. Since I was also a second degree black belt instructor, she probably felt a little safer. Hind sight makes me wonder if maybe she felt protected also by a strong, controlled consciousness."
In that same letter he recounted three episodes when Bonnie suddenly stopped breathing and collapsed: "There were at least three times when I had to use mouth to mouth resuscitation on Bonnie when she stopped breathing. The triggers for these events always seemed to be excessive physical pleasure, and/or emotional over-involvement. After the first time it happened I watched her very carefully. I was of the opinion then that it was a symptom of her epilepsy. Generally I would watch for nearly a minute for her to start breathing again on her own. When she didn't I would breath for her a couple of times. She would shudder a little and begin breathing again on her own. There never seemed to be any memory on her part that she was not with us during those episodes. I felt it better at the time that she didn't know in case it would upset her." I also experienced those events before they developed into grand mal seizures.
On 20 May 1979 Bonnie graduated from GeorgeAnn's Finishing and Modeling School. The graduation ceremony was held at the Silver Lake Inn. It had taken her just a year to earn her degree while carrying out all her many responsibilities. Jim Forberg escorted her, since she was separated from her husband. She wore a formal full-length white flowing dress with layered sleeves and blouse, white gloves, and a crown-like hair band. Graduation pictures of her show a radiant smile on a thin and anemic looking face, evidence of her declining state of health.
Very little activity is indicated during the summer in the Alpha II patient schedule book, except for teaching courses. She continued to work as an insurance adjuster. Most of the time she had just enough money to meet basic expenses such as food, rent, and electricity, but neither her husband or ex-husband were helping to support the children. She recalled buying the least expensive foods possible, and accepting charity whenever it came her way. Her son Billy told me that during this period he spent as much time with his father as with his mother. By September, however, her health and financial situation had deteriorated to the point that she had to apply for additional welfare money, listing increased child care costs.
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Copyright Bruce Cornet 1999
Last updated: 11/25/2014