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Dwight Bonk Sr., 73, 'ferocious rebounder' at Dougherty, phys ed teacher at School 68

Sept. 16, 1945 — Oct. 6, 2018

Dwight Bonk Sr., who spent decades teaching physical education and health and coaching at School 68 in Buffalo, had a comprehensive view of the value of what is often called "gym class."

In 2000, Mr. Bonk, a frequent writer of letters to The Buffalo News on topics related to sports and young people, bristled at a News story that referred to physical education classes as "gym."

He wrote, " 'Gym' is not the correct description for physical education. Physical education should emphasize maximum activity while promoting challenges and total fitness. In my opinion, it is an essential part of the educational process that teaches children sportsmanship, technique and socialization skills."

Mr. Bonk, a high school basketball standout at Cardinal Dougherty who played for Niagara University, then became a beloved teacher, coach, official and league player, died after a long illness on Oct. 6, 2018, in his North Tonawanda home. He was 73.

Mr. Bonk was born in the Town of Tonawanda, the son of Adam and Emily (Weir) Bonk and middle brother of Judith and Gregory. His father was a general foreman in the Tonawanda Chevrolet plant and his mother was a teacher at Bishop McMahon High School in Buffalo.

Mr. Bonk graduated from St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore and from Cardinal Dougherty High School in 1963. He played some baseball, but was a standout on the basketball court.

A 6-foot-2-inch forward, he was "a ferocious rebounder," said his son, Dwight Bonk Jr. In the 1962-1963 season, Mr. Bonk was named to both the All-Western New York Boys Basketball team and the All-Catholic basketball team.

Mr. Bonk was highly recruited by colleges and chose Niagara University so he could stay close to home, his son said. A member of the Class of 1968, he played from 1963 to 1966 as a guard for the Purple Eagles, then went on to earn both his bachelor's and master's degrees in education from NU.

After graduation, Mr. Bonk began working at elementary School 68 in the Bailey-Kensington area of Buffalo.

"He started and ended his career in the same building," said his son. At School 68, he taught health and physical education, coached the boys and girls basketball teams and the tumbling team, which performed during halftime of several college basketball games at what was then the Marine Midland Arena, said his son.

He took a less competitive approach to sports for young people. In a 2002 letter to The News, he wrote that competition "can wait until junior and senior years of high school. ... Rather than interschool competition, I would highly recommend a structured intramural program where the kids can really learn without fear of losing or being humiliated in a number of ways too lengthy to list."

He also wrote in 2001 to express shock when a Buffalo public high school team won a game by a score of 150-41. "Doesn't the coach understand the concepts of character building, self-esteem and sportsmanship?" he wrote. "As I see it, there is no place in any sport, at any level, for this type of denigration."

Mr. Bonk played basketball until the early 2000s in several leagues, including the Kenmore-Tonawanda Knights of Columbus League and at the Eldredge Club in Tonawanda, where he sometimes shared the court with members of the Buffalo Braves, his son said.

Mr. Bonk also coached youth basketball for the Blessed Sacrament Athletic Club in Kenmore.

In the 1970s, Mr. Bonk worked summers for the Town of Tonawanda Recreation Department as a lifeguard and pool supervisor at the Delaware Pool. He worked as a softball umpire and a basketball referee in the 1970s and 1980s, his son said.

He retired from School 68 in 2003.

"He was an avid supporter of youth programs throughout his entire life," said his son, and particularly proud of his support of the Buffalo Police Athletic League.

Mr. Bonk was also a very outgoing person with many friends, said his son, who described him as "a huge fan" of the Buffalo Bills, the New York Yankees and "his beloved college" Niagara University, along with Cardinal Dougherty until it closed in 1979.

Besides his son, Dr. Dwight Bonk Jr., Mr. Bonk is survived by a brother, Gregory Bonk; a sister, Judith Webster; two grandchildren; and nephews.

A funeral service will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Lester H. Wedekindt Funeral Home, 3290 Delaware Ave.

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