Joseph Leonard Bonikowski, Jr.
June 12, 1961 – March 12, 2019
From modeling Sansabelt pants to making sure the West Coast sports scores made it into print, Joe Bonikowski did it all at The Palm Beach Post, always with a smile and without ego. A longtime copy editor, occasional writer and go-to photo model who was as passionate about putting out the sports section as he was about cheering his hometown Philadelphia sports teams, Bonikowski passed away Tuesday after suffering a stroke. He was 57.
“Everyone who knew Joe loved him,” said Tami Tolley, an executive assistant who worked with Bonikowski for more than 30 years. “He was a kind soul with a big heart who would do anything in the world for you.”
A longtime basketball coach in youth leagues and middle schools, he also was an assistant boys varsity basketball coach at Cardinal Newman High School and The Benjamin School. He was on the staffs of two teams at Cardinal Newman that won Class 3A state championships (1999, 2000). “That was very important to him, taking care of kids and mentoring kids through basketball,” said Post Publisher Tim Burke.
Aside from his family - he always talked about his son, Joe, and his basketball exploits - Bonikowski’s biggest passions might’ve been his hometown Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers, no matter what the score. “He loved his Philadelphia sports teams, even when they were horrible,” said former Post copy editor Chris DeStefano, who, like Bonikowski, is a fellow Philadelphia native. “When the Phillies lost 100 games, he still stuck with them. And his love for Tastykakes, cheese steaks and soft pretzels never waned, either.” Known around the office as “Bono” or “Joe B.,″ he was passionate about the University of Florida Gators, too. “When we would talk on the phone, he would always end the call with ‘Love ya’ and ‘Go Gators,’ ” said Tolley, a diehard Florida State Seminoles fan. “No matter what was going on in his life, he would always take time to see how you were doing.”
Co-workers remember him for a larger-than-life personality who was always upbeat, even when facing his own personal health problems. A few years ago, he lost part of his right leg to diabetes. “Even after he lost his leg, he didn’t lose that zest for life,” DeStefano said. “If this guy can pose on the front page (of Accent) in Sansabelt pants, it shows he could laugh at himself. He didn’t take himself seriously and that rubbed off on his outlook in life.”
When Bonikowski returned to work after losing part of his leg, “there was no depression, no life-gave-me-a-bad deal. He was incredibly positive and fired up,″ said David Collins, Bonikowski’s supervisor from 2014-18. “He said, ‘Dave, I’ve been doing rehab with these veterans who suffered war injuries and I’ve got nothing to complain about. You’ll never hear me complain.’ And I never did.’” Collins added, “Newsrooms are often not filled with positive people. There’s a lot of stress, but Joe was somebody who always came in with such a great attitude and enjoyed his job and enjoyed his co-workers and really made the effort to help them enjoy their jobs and enjoy their days.″
Besides copy editing, Bonikowski also wrote for The Post; he produced columns and stories for the Neighborhood Post community section of northern Palm Beach County from January 2000 to April 2008. He was honored in 2007 by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County for coverage of maritime issues. In 2001, his column on the murder of a 12-year-old girl was named Column of the Year by the Florida Society of Professional Journalists.
He also appeared in many memorable Post photo illustrations over the years — from a football ref wearing a cap made of cheese to a tuxedo-clad boxing ring announcer. He once posed wearing only a tutu. And in one Christmas feature, he posed as a giant elf.
“Whenever you would ask Joe to do something, his typical response would always be ‘Whatever you need.’ That’s what I remember about Joe. He never had any ego,” Burke said. “I don’t think he ever had a bad day at the office. He was just a great human being.” Bonikowski is survived by his wife, Linda, son, Joe, mom, Penny, step-daughter, Alicia (husband Dave and daughter Alexandra), and brothers, Kevin (wife Cindy), Brian (wife Mary) and James (wife Alina).
Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Juno Beach. A reception in the church hall will follow the service. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Trustbridge Hospice of Northern Palm Beach County.
- Linda ., Wife
- Joe ., Son
- Penny ., Mom
- Alicia, (husband, Dave and daughter, Alexandra), Step-daughter
- Kevin (wife, Cindy), Brother
- Brian (wife, Mary), Brother
- James (wife, Alina), Brother
- Trustbridge Hospice
- Funeral Mass Saturday, March 16, 2019
Joseph Leonard Bonikowski, Jr.
March 17, 2019
Keith and I send our love and prayers to your family during this difficult and very sad time . Joe was a wonderful man. So sorry for your loss . xoxo
Keith and Becky
March 15, 2019
Sending you all our deepest sympathy and prayers at this very sad time.
Thinking of you all, with love from the Roans in Manchester, England.
Patsy and Andy Burke
March 15, 2019
Our deepest sympathies to you all. You are all in our thought and prayers.
All your love from all your relations in Ireland.
May your gentle soul rest in perfect peace.