Sertoma club honors late Brainerd mayor/teacher Bonnie Cumberland

Former Brainerd teacher, mayor and council president Bonnie Cumberland's death on Feb. 3, 2014, shocked the community, leaving a hole in many hearts.

Bonnie Cumberland speaks at the 2013 ribbon-cutting of the Buffalo Hills Trail. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Former Brainerd teacher, mayor and council president Bonnie Cumberland's death on Feb. 3, 2014, shocked the community, leaving a hole in many hearts.

Thanks to her generous spirit, Cumberland's legacy lives on.

The Brainerd Noon Sertoma club honored Cumberland with memorials to the Confidence Learning Center and the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation. Money was used to create a climbing wall, rope swing, Burma bridge and bouldering wall with accessible paved trails to the stations. The equipment is accompanied by a plaque that reads, "In loving memory of Bonnie Cumberland who believed in crossing bridges and climbing walls to attain goals."

Cumberland donated a significant amount of money to the Sertoma club upon her death. A Bonnie Cumberland Memorial Committee determined how to use the money.

Karla Lee, a Sertoma member, said Cumberland was an awesome, hardworking Sertoma member and a friend to so many.


"Bonnie was a wonderful, remarkable lady, who never said no to any projects," Lee said. "She was an amazing lady."

Lee stated in an email Cumberland's donations will further honor her as she was an "excellent educator and believed strongly in supporting education. ... Bonnie was loved and respected and will never be forgotten."

Sertoma Club officers will never forget Cumberland and will remember the Brainerd woman for her kindness to all.

Jaime Rowlette, Sertoma chairman, said when he first joined Sertoma in 2009 he didn't know anyone and Cumberland always sat at a table where she was able to greet everyone who attended. He said she always said "Hi" to him and made him feel welcome.

"She was one who had a kind heart," Rowlette said. "It didn't matter if you were a rookie or a member for a long time, she always made people feel welcome."

Rowlette said Cumberland always volunteered for projects, even if it was one she shouldn't have. Rowlette said she always wanted to help set up what they called a "gossamer," which was a huge sheet of cloth Sertoma would set up at the Brainerd Armory for weddings. Rowlette said she would insist on hooking the cloth up by standing on a ladder that sat on a rolling platform. He said he would tell her he didn't feel comfortable with her on there for her safety, but she insisted it was fine, and he couldn't do anything to change her mind.

Rowlette sat on a sponsorship committee with Cumberland and she always brought treats to share.

"She always livened up a room," Rowlette said of Cumberland. "She had no fear and if someone was down she would jab them to lighten up the room.


"I miss her. ... Everyone who knew her knew she was passionate with everything she was involved in."

Karen Munsterteiger, Sertoma president, said Cumberland joined Sertoma after receiving the Service to Mankind Award in 2000. This award is the highest honor Sertoma can bestow on a non-member and it honors outstanding volunteer service to the community.

"Bonnie volunteered for everything and believed in service," Munsterteiger said. "She was the poster child of service. She would even send whatever organization she was volunteering at a card to say thank you for letting her volunteer. She had so much gratitude. She gave so much to the Brainerd community and the school system. We wanted to make sure her legacy will always be remembered."

Cumberland moved to Brainerd in the fall of 1968 for a teaching job. In 1976, she was named Brainerd Teacher of the Year. She retired from Brainerd High School in 2002 after 34 years as a marketing teacher.

Cumberland was elected mayor of Brainerd in 1991, serving until 1998. She also served as an at-large member of the Brainerd City Council, including a stint as council president, from 2006 until her death.

Soft-spoken and quick to offer an encouraging word to others, Cumberland provided an example of strength and endurance as she experienced breast cancer. Cumberland told the Dispatch surviving breast cancer made her appreciate life more.

Bonnie Cumberland
Bonnie Cumberland

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