Listen to the interview with Joe DeChristopher, including the song he wrote

Joe DeChristopher took the experiences he had of the Vietnam War and wrote a song to honor the woman who served as nurses during the war.

He spent 16 months in Vietnam in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 67. During that time, he became aware of the sacrifices nurses made when he saw the reaction of a nurse confronted by a soldier who wanted to die.

“She was kind of shaken up so, I’m a friendly guy so I looked at her and smiled and I said, ‘you ok?’ She burst into tears and hugged me and she whispered in my ear, ‘I didn’t know it was going to be like this,’” recalled DeChristopher.

He discovered from a documentary several years ago that the names of eight nurses were on the Vietnam Wall. He did more research on the nurses and complied their stories into a song.

“I try to get commonalities of things that they had done when they were longer and their jobs, how they felt. I just didn’t know how to put it together. It was really hard to extrapolate all of that because there is so much information, so much emotion and so much, so much grief,” DeChristpher said.

DeChristopher performed the song for the first time Friday at the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba. He found writing the song to be cathartic.

Although eight names are on the wall, DeChristopher says 52 women died during the Vietnam War. He wants people to know that they gave their lives when they didn’t have to.

The Bonifas is bringing back A Night of Magic and Wizardry, and it promises to be even more magical this year! 

The event includes a scavenger hunt, Quidditch games, a delicious feast, butter beer, magical activities, a wand shop, candy store, potion class, and all your favorite witches and wizards dressed in character.

“This year’s Night of Magic and Wizardry promises to be a magical night for Muggles of all ages to gather together to celebrate a boy that triumphed against all odds with the help of his friends,” said Bonifas Events Coordinator Cammy Hawn. “Everyone is invited to come dressed in their favorite house colors!”

The Night of Magic and Wizardry will be on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m. with tickets for the event being $20 for children/students and $35 for adults. To purchase tickets, call the (906) 786-3833 or online

Join the Bonifas for creative play activities and music fun in the Toddler Art Classes.

These classes combine fun and learning to nurture imagination, assist in problem solving, and help develop motor skills. Art stations and music provide hands-on fun in these classes.

Classes are taught by professional educators with extensive experience in programs for young children.

The fee for toddlers (mobile to age 3) and their caregivers is $5 per day (per class per child). Registering in advance is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome.

Classes will be held from 9:30-10:15 a.m. on the following Thursdays: Sept. 12, 19, 26, Oct. 3, 17, 24 and 31, Nov. 7, 14, 21 (skips Thanksgiving), and Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26.

A new class at the Bonifas had participants combining watercolor and ink to create a unique piece of art, and learning how to do so from a renowned watercolor artist. 

Using the ink marks to guide artists in their composition and design makes for an exciting process. In the new “watercolor excitement with ink” class, students used a limited palette and worked on small and medium pieces of watercolor paper.

The pigments and watercolor paper were available for participants, along with brushes, pencils, erasers and permanent pens. Participants brought several photographs that they wanted to paint.

Class instructor and watercolor artist Ed Fenendael, a native of Wisconsin, began his art career over 35 years ago and now offers workshops in the U.S. and abroad. He has studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, as well as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and graduated from Marquette University.

Fenendael’s work is in numerous corporate and private collections throughout the world and also in the Miller Art Museum (Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin) permanent collection. 

Fenendael says he enjoys sharing his knowledge of watercolor painting with others. 

“I feel very fortunate to be able to communicate my feelings, my joys, and my love of nature in my artwork. One of my greatest rewards is to share that love with fellow artists when I teach. I am a firm believer that you need only the desire to become involved in art and thus begin this wonderful journey on the path of creativity.” 

“This class will be a wonderful way for people to expand their creativity and share their favorite experiences by “putting them on watercolor paper with the addition of ‘permanent ink’. No worry, just fun,” Fenendael said. 

The two-day workshop was offered Sept. 10 and 11. It began with a short discussion followed by a demonstration. Participants then had plenty of time to work on their individual pieces. Each day ended with a gentle and informative critique.

Participants were sure to have fun and leave this workshop with a renewed sense of creativity and a painting to display in their homes.

As fall approaches, and people are spending more time indoors, the Bonifas is also offering new lifestyle classes to motivate people to incorporate new, healthy practices into their everyday lives. The classes will teach participants yoga, new dancing skills, strengthening exercises, meditation, and even the wonderful art of bread making. 

The Bonifas line-up of fall lifestyle classes is as follows: To start off the week, Ashtanga yoga classes will be offered on Mondays starting Sept. 9 and running through Dec. 16, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Taught by Heather Bruss, these classes will teach students how to synchronize breath with a variety of yoga poses to increase the benefits of their workout. Cost is $36 per month of classes for members or $45 for non-members (Dec. cost is $27 for members or $34 for non-members.)

According to Bruss, who has been practicing yoga for approximately 20 years, yoga provides a great way to strengthen and tone muscles while increasing flexibility. 

Next, on Wednesdays starting Sept. 18 and running through Oct. 23 (from 6 to 7 p.m.), a Tahitian-style workout class will be taught by Jeana Harmon, a certified veteran instructor. Harmon taught adult health and exercise at Bay College and has been teaching exercise for over 30 years. The fee for this six-week series of classes is $30 for members or $35 for non-members.

Also on Wednesdays, starting Oct. 2 and running weekly from 9:15-10 a.m., a free Arthritis Exercise class will be offered for senior citizens and all arthritis sufferers. This class will teach exercise for the whole body, focusing on joint flexibility and muscle strength from head to toe. This class is taught by Betty Wagner, exercise teacher with almost 50 years of experience, who has taught gym, aerobics, senior exercise and dancing, and is a familiar face to many at the Escanaba and Bark River Senior Centers, Bonifas Arts Center and YMCA.

To help people relax, Little Bay Zen Buddhist Sangha will resume sitting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 6:30 pm at the Bonifas Arts Center Upper Gallery. The Little Bay Zen Buddhist Sangha is a Buddhist Community that practices zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation) and Dharma discussion If you have questions or want to learn more about this Soto Zen Buddhist community, please email Joseph Mold at This is a free (donations only) group.

Finally, The Art of Bread making class with artisanal baker Mike Berg: Ciabatta, will be on Friday, Oct. 4 from 6 – 8 p.m. for those 12 years of age and up. Ciabatta bread has a delightful chewy exterior, and a soft light interior – a very pleasing combination for the taste buds! The fee is $15 per class for members or $18 for non-members. Join this class and enjoy the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread and lively conversation with like-minded people. The best part – there will be delectable samples! 

These classes fill up quickly, so sign up soon to ensure your spot.

Native Apache necklace-making class with Kayelyn Inman

Fall is right around the corner, and with the kids going back to school soon, it’s a great time for parents and grandparents to take a class and learn a new skill, or just come to a Bonifas class and have some fun! This fall, the Bonifas Arts Center is offering fun, inspiring classes. 

Paint nights with Instructor Staci Berg are returning to the Bonifas this fall! Attendees can paint a seasonal scene with acrylics, and are encouraged to bring a friend or two and a beverage of their choice. The best part: Everyone will take home their unique piece of art! This class will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the following Thursdays: Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 14, and Dec. 12. Cost for one of the classes is $25 for members or $30 for non-members. For all four paintings, members pay just $85, with non-members paying $105.

Just in time for the holiday season, why not learn to make your own unique and professional looking greeting cards! In a new Introduction to Holiday Card Making class, offered at the Bonifas on Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., participants will acquire knowledge of different materials, mediums and techniques used in paper crafting. Topics will include: types and uses of inks, cardstocks, and stamps. Beginner-level techniques including matting, masking, sponging and adding dimension will be covered. Coloring mediums and techniques (pencils, markers, pan pastels, inks and watercolor pencils) as well as background techniques are also part of the curriculum. Class participants will each take home three cards (5”x7” or 6”x6”). The student fee for this class is $15 for members or $18 for non-members.

Back by popular demand, visiting artist Mary Felton-Kolstad will host a workshop to help attendees create and paint their own Barn Quilt to make their barn or shed look unique. Participants will paint a wooden 2 x 2 plaque in a quilted pattern, meet new friends, and learn new skills. When you sign up, please print your pattern or graph (instructions are attached to the registration form), and send a week ahead of time for the artist to have sufficient time to draw. Patterns should include a border (if one is shown on the pattern), and/or special background colors. This class, which will be on Wednesday, Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., costs $65. Those interested should register by Sept. 30, and are asked to bring a bag lunch to the class. Water and coffee will be provided. 

A Native Apache necklace-making class will have attendees making a beautiful and meaningful beaded loomwork necklace, following the traditional technique of Native Americans. In this class, taught by Kayelyn Inman, attendees can pick from several unique patterns, or use their own. Learn a new creative skill and own a special piece of jewelry, or make a wonderful Christmas gift for that special someone! This class, which will be on Tuesdays, Oct. 15 and 22 from 6 to 8 p.m., costs $50 for members or $58 for non-members. 

Another unique class, Introduction to Encaustic, taught by April South Olson, will be coming to the Bonifas this Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. Attendees will learn to make a unique piece of encaustic art by painting with colored wax. This makes a wonderfully unique and memorable gift for someone this holiday season. Cost for this class is $40 for members or $45 for non-members. Registration deadline is Oct. 20.

“Of Both Minds,” a collection of engineering wonders and artistry by inventor and artist Steve Bowles, will be on display in the Bonifas Powers Gallery from Sept. 4 through Oct. 29.

On display will be a large Rube Goldberg machine, which is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overcomplicated fashion, that will fill the lower gallery space.This exhibit also includes a selection of the drawings and prototypes that led to the realization of a variety of interactive machines that will completely engage viewers. These kinetic sculptures, which are expertly crafted from wood, copper and brass, are sure to delight viewers. 

“Steve’s artwork reminds me of Leonardo da Vinci’s machines with a steam punk twist,” Bonifas Gallery Coordinator Kate Oman said. “Steve worked in the special effects department on many featured films including “Jaws”, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, and “Child’s Play”, so he has lots of experience with mechanics, but is also an artist and that shows with his attention to detail. I’m really excited to see what fun machines Steve brings for us to play with!”

Bonifas gallery exhibits, as always, are open and free to the public.

Who says kids can’t cook? Not the Bonifas Arts Center! The Bonifas is teaming up with 4-H SPIN Clubs to help you raise your kids as enthusiastic cooks and healthy eaters.

Integral parts of the program are basics of nutrition, kitchen tools and techniques, hands-on food preparation, food safety, presentation, table manners, and use of utensils.

This year, a new curriculum is being launched based on international cuisine. Through foods, participants will travel to Italy, Ethiopia, Russia, China, Poland, and explore Native American heritage.

Kids from all local schools are welcome. This is a great after-school program with built-in snack and fun learning. 

Taught by Dave Radloff, Stephanie Ostrenga, and Irina Bruno, the Kids Culinary Classes will be held at the Home Economics kitchen of Escanaba Upper Elementary School (EUE) on Tuesdays, Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, Nov. 5, and 12 from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.

The fee is $50/series (series only—includes the 4H participation fee) for students in fourth grade.

The classes fill up fast, so sign up at the EUE or by calling the Bonifas at (906) 786-3833.

The Bonifas Arts Center has made date night planning a cinch by offering live entertainment in the Bonifas studio on Friday, Sept. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.

This fun “Friday Night Live!” event will feature a new, exciting entertainment line-up with new and favorite performers. The Bonifas will provide sweet and savory snacks at the event, and everyone is welcome to bring a beverage of their choice.

Tickets for this event are $10 for members or $12 for nonmembers, and can be purchased in advance at the Bonifas, online or at the door.

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