TAYLORSVILLE — Forty-some years ago, when she and her husband Kent were raising their family and all five of their kids — Sandy, Susan, Sherman, Stephen and Stuart — were old enough to have a paper route, Bonnie Curtis got in the habit of watching every newspaper wind up on the porch, as opposed to the rose bushes, a snowdrift or underneath the station wagon in the driveway.
Porching 'em was Kent Curtis’ idea. If they were going to do this, he insisted they were going to do it right. Their assigned route was in South Salt Lake, from State Street to 700 East, a location several miles across the valley from their family home in Taylorsville.
Each morning, Kent, an elementary school principal, and Bonnie, a full-time homemaker, would load everyone into the family van and drive to the spot where their newspapers were dropped off. After picking up the papers they would then deposit each kid at various spots along the route. Kent and Bonnie would monitor the workforce, making sure the papers were delivered high and dry, never failing to find a spot on the porch next to the front door.
As the Curtis children turned 16 and found more gainful employment — with better hours — the paper route eventually met a natural demise.
But back home on Fernwood Road in Taylorsville, Bonnie never forgot porching those papers — how good it felt to go the extra mile, and how much people seemed to appreciate the extra effort.
About 10 years ago, with five church missions under their belt, and Kent retired, and the kids all grown and gone with families of their own, Bonnie noticed that her paper wasn’t always finding the porch. Then she noticed a lot of other porches in her neighborhood were empty as well.
Thus began her second paper route. Every morning at 5:30 she would get up, put on her good walking shoes — boots in winter — and walk the streets of Taylorsville picking up newspapers and placing them on porches.
She’d walk a 2 ½ mile loop, but with all her comings and goings it added up closer to 3 ½ by the time she was finished.
She fished papers out of bushes, gutters, piles of leaves and snow. She built a customized expandable retrieving pole out of PVC pipe to snag papers that found their way under cars and trucks.
When she had her knees replaced, she missed making her rounds, but not for long. Every day she was up at dark, taking care of people.
When her family expressed concern for her safety or her health, she’d shrug them off.
“There are old people out there!” she’d exclaim. “How are they going to get their papers if I don’t go?”
Bonnie was saying that up until a month ago, at age 86, when the kids talked her into relocating from her home of 54 years to an assisted living facility a few miles away.
This was just weeks after Kent, who was also 86, passed away.
On her last day on Fernwood Road, Bonnie’s family, without her knowledge, rallied neighbors and friends to join the intrepid paper porcher for her last rounds. Via phone calls, emails and texts, they invited anyone and everyone to show up at 5:30 a.m. at Bonnie’s place and walk her route with her.
Several dozen showed up. Dozens more came out in their yards and waved and cheered.
One newspaper subscriber looked on with some awe at the diminutive woman on the sidewalk and declared, “I always wondered how it got up there.”
Bonnie was how. And now that she’s off to greener pastures, she has no plans of stopping. At her new residence, first thing she did the first morning she was there was venture into the halls and snuggle every newspaper right next to the door.
Good old habits don’t die hard, sometimes they don’t die at all.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly referred to Beechwood Road instead of Fernwood Road.