For more than 40 years, Bonnie Wilcox has been a familiar face in Oneida County’s district attorney’s office. But on April 4 she will step away from her desk and enjoy a well deserved retirement.
“I’ve worked here pretty much my entire career,” Bonnie said. “It’s going to be quite a change being retired.”
Bonnie grew up in Rhinelander, the fourth child in a family of 12. Even as a youngster she knew the meaning of hard work.
“We grew up sort of poor with no running water or electricity,” she said. “We were always picking berries or doing odd jobs to make money for the family.”
When she graduated high school, she got a job with Attorney Orville DuBois as his secretary.
“Back then everything was dictation and manual typewriters,” she said. “but I found the job interesting.”
In 1964 Bonnie started her career as a secretary with Oneida County’s social service department, then she took a few years off to get married and start a family. In 1972 she went back to work part-time with the Tax Listing department for the county. Shortly after that the DA’s office requested part-time help so Bonnie’s time was divided between the two departments. However, it wasn’t long before she was a full-time employee in the DA’s office, settling in for a life time career there.
She has seen her share of major changes over the years. New technology was, at times, daunting.
“I remember when we got computers,” she said. “Sometimes I was in tears trying to learn how to operate it. I was just afraid of it.”
While Bonnie started out as a secretary for the department, another one of her duties was as the victim/witness coordinator for the county. This program requires that a victim of a crime be notified when their perpetrator goes to court or gets released from prison. For many victims, Bonnie was a compassionate and caring presence in often confusing and scary scenarios.
“Sometimes I would even sit in court with these victims,” she said. “Just so they knew that someone cared.”
Domestic violence cases were really tough.
“It was very discouraging to see someone getting abused and then a few days or weeks later come in and want to drop the charges,” she said. “Many of those victims would be back again.”
As time has passed, this state mandated program has grown, and for the last few years almost all of Bonnie’s time has been devoted to it.
And while helping victims and their families through rough legal times has always been fulfilling, Bonnie has also greatly enjoyed interacting with her co-workers over the years. As her two decade career comes to a close, Bonnie can recall all eight of the district attorneys she has served under in the 40 years she has been with this department.
“Since district attorneys are elected officials, you just never knew who your boss was going to be at election time,” she said with a laugh. “The longest DA I served under was Patrick O’Melia. He was my boss for 18 years.”
This hard working and industrious woman admits she will miss the routine of her working days though, but she’s also looking forward to getting some jobs done around her house. She has a trip planned later this month with her daughter and granddaughter that she is looking forward to and there are gardening projects she and her husband, Harley will tackle. Spending more time with her three kids and four grandkids in also on her list.
Another one of Bonnie’s favorite pastimes is going on long walks and not surprisingly, she loves to clean. In fact, she may even take on a few jobs after summer is over. She would also like to stay involved with the community but hasn’t decided just where yet.
“I’m one of those people that always likes to stay busy,” she said. “I’m not going to be doing much sitting around for sure.”