Mae T. Bonitto, 85, Was Dancer and Art Collector
Mae Theresa (nee Buzzelle) Bonitto, 85, died on March 18 at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge after a lengthy illness.
Mrs. Bonitto was born in Cambridge and educated in its public schools. In her pre-teens, she was Cambridge's champion drummer. As a dancer during the Great Depression in the 1930s, she traveled the United States and Canada with the Jimmie Lunceford Band. She worked in Boston theatres and clubs before her marriage in 1937 to Frank Bonitto of Roxbury.
In later years, Mrs. Bonitto held several positions with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, retiring early from a head administrative position with the Department of Public Works. Early retirement enabled her to devote time and energy to civic associations such as the Heritage Club, and to research into her family's genealogy.
The Boston Globe, in a front-page series of articles, recently featured her well-documented genealogical findings on her maternal great-grandfather, six generations removed, Barzillai Lew, a soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Information about Mrs. Bonitto's family was provided to Franklin A. Dorman for his book, Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts, and to Gail Lumet Buckley (daughter of Lena Horne) for her book, American Patriots. Before her death, Mrs. Bonitto was offered a membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The other great passions for Mrs. Bonitto were collecting the works of important local African American artists and hosting family and friends at the Quonset hut on Martha's Vineyard which she and her husband have owned since 1947.
The beloved wife of Frank L.G. Bonitto, an artist and collector, they shared a loving and supportive partnership that spanned more than 65 years. She was "aunt" to many nieces and nephews by blood, marriage and friendship. Full of energy, lovely conversation and laughter, Aunt Mae always found time to teach a new young friend an old jazz dance step.
Memorial services were held on Saturday, June 2, at 1 p.m. at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Cambridge.
Donations in her memory may be sent to the St. Bartholomew's Capital Fund, 237 Harvard street, Cambridge, MA 02139.