Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Faces in the Crowd: Cindy Truxton

Faces in the Crowd: Murray and Bonnie Rockafellow
Murray and Bonnie Rockafellow have lived extraordinary lives, together.
“Together” being the key word.
Since they married 52 years ago, the couple has owned a restaurant, a construction company, and a trucking company. They’ve owned them together, as a pair, as teammates, as best friends.
They’ve traveled to all 48 states in the continental United States, often times with their 2 kids, 3 grandkids, and 7 great grandkids.
And while they’ve often been on the road over the years, Marion has always been home.
Their latest adventure is happening now at Marion’s Veterans Memorial Park, where they’re spending the summer managing the campground. And this winter, they’ll head on down to Silver Springs, Florida where they just recently bought a home.
But Marion will always be their home. And they will certainly be back to visit.
We caught up with the couple recently and learned a little bit more about their lives together. We learned that Murray and Bonnie Rockafellow are certainly more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.
Marion Press: Were you both born and raised here in Marion? Tell us a little bit about where you started.
Bonnie: I was born in Marion; Murray moved here when he was 3 or 4. I started out to Grandon School – went out there until 6th grade, and come in here [to Marion] in 7th. My mother was the cook out at Grandon, and then when they closed Grandon down, she was the cook at Marion School for a number of years – until I graduated high school, and then she quit! My mother [Marvella] was a great cook, and she always had a snack ready when you got home from school. It didn’t matter, she always had a snack. So a lot of the kids were always trying to get off the bus at our house. Steve Pifer’s mom would call and say, “Did Steve get of the bus there again!?”
MP: What was Grandon School like?
Bonnie: It was two rooms. The bottom was kindergarten through 4th, and the top was 5th and 6th, I think. The very first teacher I had out there was Florence Richardson. She had to teach my kindergarten class, and then she taught every one of us 8 [Mosher] kids, and my dad.
MP: What kept you busy as a kid?
Bonnie: We just lived out on the farm. When I was 15, I went to work for George and Ann Coon at the Riverside Café. We had just a little farm; one year we might raise pigs, another year we might raise calves. My dad drove truck for the cattle company for a while – for the Blackledge brothers – and then he quit and went to work in road construction.
We hung out when I was a kid at what they called the Eagles Nest. They used to open up the town hall every Thursday night and they’d have a dance. You’d hang out at the Eagles Nest, and then go to the dance. We did that a lot.
MP: Murray, what about you? What kept you busy growing up?
Murray: Oh, keeping out of trouble, I guess. I lived here in town; started school at the elementary school, and graduated in that same building. As kids, we’d fish a lot, play ball, work on farms. Spent a lot of time in the river, from one end to the other. There wasn’t employment available in town, so we’d went to work out on farms. And back then most of the farms had their own kids!
We played little league, we swam in the river. There was a swimming hole there at the Mill Pond, and in the summertime, there’d be 50-60 kids down there swimming. There was a theatre across the street [from the town hall] and everybody went there on the weekends. You’d take a quarter and you could go to the movies. If you were thrifty, you could have a soda and a bag of popcorn. Or you could go to the penny store and buy a handful of penny candies. I think it was like 12 cents or so to get in the movie.
It wasn’t a boring life around here as a kid. We didn’t have electronics or anything like that, but you’d go out and play as much as you could get away with playing – when you weren’t having to do chores. You’d stay out well into the evening, until somebody forced you to go in. Winter, summer, either one; you never got to cold, you just stayed outside.
MP: After high school you went into the Air Force, what was that like?
Murray: It was like having a job; you went to work every day. There wasn’t much beyond that! I was stationed all over the United States, and in Labrador, Canada. We were so far up there that there weren’t any trees growing any more. They told us when we went up there that there was a girl behind every tree; there weren’t any trees!
MP: And you owned the River Inn Restaurant for a number of years, how’d that come about?
Bonnie: I worked for Tiginelli’s and they were going belly up. So they moved out, and the building was empty and we talked about it. “Yeah, we wanted a restaurant.” So we bought the building and started buying equipment. We were there for 8 or 9 years.
MP: What did you enjoy the most about running the restaurant?
Bonnie: Cooking and talking to the people. I loved my customers. And I liked the camaraderie of the people. I used to work for Jim’s Drive-in out on M-115 – they had homemade French fries, homemade donuts.
MP: You also owned Rockafellow Builders, a construction company. When did you get into construction?
Murray: I started doing that right after I got out of the service. I did that for a long time, and then the industry kind of went south. So I went south – down to Detroit – and worked for a carpenter’s union. And then that went south. Back in the early ‘80s, you couldn’t buy a job. So we came back up here, and I knocked around and did some carpentry work here and there. Worked for Evart Products for a while – that wasn’t for me – and that was about when we started up that restaurant.
Bonnie: I said, “Give me a year in the restaurant, and you can go building.” So that year he worked in the factory so that we had steady income, and that worked really well for us. Then he went and got his own builder’s license and started Rockafellow Builders. He did that for 20 years; I sold the restaurant in ’94 or ’95, and then I went to work for him.
MP: How did you get into construction? Is that something your family did?
Murray: I think I just inherited it somehow. My dad, he could drive a nail, but he wasn’t a carpenter. It was just something I picked up. I started out building houses; it came kind of natural and I just stuck with it. I took some correspondence courses in carpentry and in the school of hard knocks, if you will. I worked for numerous people, carpenter’s unions, built bridges – overpass bridges. Worked for an outfit in Detroit, and we built foundries and things like that.
Bonnie: He’s very meticulous.
MP: Comes with the job, right?
Murray: It does and it doesn’t. There’s rough carpenters. I don’t claim to be a rough carpenter; I’m a finish carpenter. But I’ve done it all the way from putting the footings in to finishing the drywall. It’s been an interesting life really.
Bonnie: We didn’t get rich, but we sure had a lot of fun.
MP: And you also spent a number of years driving truck all over the country.
Bonnie: You have to like each other a lot to live in that 8 foot square truck, 24/7. Sometimes we’d be gone for 6 weeks, sometimes 2 months. We both drove, so one could sleep or rest, and we picked our own loads off the computer so you were always kind of busy.
Murray: We always knew when it was time to come home; you started bickering.
Bonnie: “Time to get out of the truck!”
We’d go to Colorado and visit my sister, or go to Texas and visit his cousin. We had a son in Florida, and our daughter was in Florida; my sister would winter in Florida, and my brother was in New York so it was really good trucking. When you delivered somewhere, then your time was your own, so you’d go visit family. We did that a lot.
MP: You did some work during Hurricane Katrina, tell us about that.
Bonnie: We took the FEMA trailers from the factories in Indiana. We took ‘em down to New Orleans and we’d park them in the field, and they’d load them with brooms and pans and whatever else they needed for the people that needed homes. We transported the trailers. We got in that truck and took off.
Murray: We ran the wheels off that truck. The faster you’d go the more money you’d make.
MP: Marion has always been your home, what’s kept you around?
Bonnie: Family. Being around family.
Murray: We got to know our parents perhaps better than a lot of people know their parents.
Bonnie: We always said that we were going to stick around, because my parents were getting old and sick, and then when they passed, we said, “Well we’ve got to take care of your mom, we’ve got to take care of her.” And then she passed and we’re still here.
Murray: We just always came back, regardless of where we were at. Whether it was Old Fashioned Days, or Memorial Day or whatever. We’d always come home and partake in that stuff. It just seemed like the right thing to do. We’ve always had a home to come to here.
MP: Your latest job is as the campground manager here at the park, what are you enjoying the most about this job?
Bonnie: Visiting with people. And the park is one of the best things that the village ever did. We were a little bit against it when they started with the full-service, but it has been great for the town.
MP: What’s the key to 50 years of marriage?
Murray: Being friends with one another. We wouldn’t have made it this long if we had not been friends, above everything else.
Bonnie: We developed a friendship, and it has lasted a long time. Through good times, and bad times, and crazy times.

2 Replies to “Faces in the Crowd: Cindy Truxton

  1. I am so proud to call these two amazing and beautiful people my grandparents. Through the travels, the heartache, laughter, tears, and ways the taught me I look back and can’t help but realize more every day how proud I am to call these two my grandparents and my children’s great grandparents.

    The amount of love that Bonnie & Murray have for not only their family but their community and home town is astonishing. Marion couldn’t ask for anyone better to help care for it now and over the past years.

    The babies and I love you two with all of our hearts, you guys mean the universe to us. You are amazing.

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