Bonnie Willey

Obituary of Bonnie A. Willey

Bonnie Ishler Willey died following an emergency operation on October 12, 2020, at Mt. Nittany Medical Center in State College, PA. Her death was caused by complications associated with the recurrence of lymphoma, which she had courageously battled for 12 years.

Her family remembers her as a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and wife, who infused their lives with deep joy and unconditional love. Her friends remember her as elegant, graceful, courageous, generous, and undaunted to the end, confident there was still enough spirit in her to last a few more years, if not a decade or more.

She was a kind, strong, principled woman, endowed with a deep well of wisdom. She inspired the best in the many that she touched, encouraging them to embrace life.

Bonnie was born in Howard, PA on November 3, 1943. She was one of three children raised by Dr. Harold Leroy and Marqueta Ishler. She had an idyllic, small-town childhood, with loving parents who emphasized the importance of education, service, community, and compassion.

Bonnie graduated from Bald Eagle Area High School and Lock Haven University. From there, she dedicated her life to enriching the lives of children – her own; the countless numbers that she taught as a primary school educator and those that were taught by the teachers she trained at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA; and her beloved grandchildren. She began teaching primary school in 1965 and taught in Corning, New York and Raleigh, North Carolina before settling into the State College School District in 1977. She was very proud of the time that she spent in North Carolina in the early '70s teaching in the newly integrated schools and championing equality in education.

When asked what it was about teaching that inspired her she said: "I love to watch children learn to believe in themselves. I see the value of a child in in their spirit. I help give them wings and let them go." Parents had praised Bonnie, "She had a gift for bringing out the very best in her students." and "Mrs. Willey should be cloned so that she could teach every grade." She was widely admired and respected and, as such, was recognized by State College the Magazine in June of 2000 as one of Pennsylvania's Teachers of the Year.

Bonnie was innovative, resourceful and above all, supremely creative. She used her artistry to enhance her home and found joy and solace in the beautiful gardens and her artist studio at her home, The Mill House, in Petersburg, PA. She and her husband Jere enjoyed many wonderful years at the Mill House which was a very special part of their lives.

Her exquisite culinary skills sustained the minds and bodies of numerous relatives and friends, including one who described her as "Martha Stewart without the staff." Beyond her activities in the home and workplace, Bonnie volunteered with the United Nations Association of Centre County and First Book.

Life served Bonnie many hard challenges, which she met with limitless grace and humor. She was profoundly resilient, able to "buck up" in an instant at the loving encouragement of her grandson Isaak. She was a bright light with a ready laugh and a massive heart that amazed and inspired those around her. She was a true gift to this world and her legacy will endure.

Bonnie is survived by her husband, Jere Willley; her daughter, Savonn Wyland (husband Brian Staab); her son, Bill Wyland (wife Rosey Wyland); three grandchildren, Isaak Staab, Grace Wyland and Lily Wyland; her brother, Dr. Harold "Skip" Ishler Jr.; and her sister, Nanene Cowan. As well as her stepchildren, nieces, and nephews.

She will be dearly missed by her family, her many friends and those that were touched by her life. Bonnie would have wanted to be remembered through a charity of your choice or through a contribution to the Children's Defense Fund ( or to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be scheduled for early Summer, 2021.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book maybe entered at or visit us on Facebook.

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