Celebrating Norman Zierold’s 90th birthday at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant we met Marie

On July 26, 2017, I took Norman Zierold to the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant in Bonaparte, Iowa to celebrate his 90th birthday. It’s located about 29 miles south of Fairfield in the historic Villages of Van Buren. He told me he enjoyed eating at this restaurant from time to time as it reminded him of his earlier years growing up in the Amana Colonies. I was also curious to see it so we went.

Bonaparte Retreat

Housed in the historic 1879 old Meek Grist Mill building, Ben and Rose Hendricks had opened the restaurant in 1970. Before the Industrial Revolution, farmers from miles around used to haul their grains there to be milled into flour. The Gazette published an article with 19 wonderful photos (Feb 15, 2015): Iowa All Over: Time stands still in Bonaparte.

The restaurant serves traditional Iowa food, and the staff are very personable. Word got around that Norman was celebrating his 90th, and they came over, one by one, to wish him a happy birthday.

One of them was Marie Hainline, a friendly 94-year old woman with the most wonderful smile and twinkle in her eyes. She used to run her own nursing home, which was a challenge. She retired and has been working as a waitress at the restaurant for over 30 years. She’s happy and looks healthy. Marie raised 4 children, has 11 grandchildren, many great grandchildren, and 2 one-year old great-great-grandchildren—twins!

This photo of Maire was taken from an article in the Midwest Wanderer (Nov 23, 2015): Bonaparte Retreat: Dining in an Old Grist Mill. Among the photos are one of the back of the building and the inside, where we sat at a round table looking out a window at the Des Moines River.

Marie Hainline at Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant

After paying our bill, Marie showed me an article about her published almost 7 years ago in the Hancock County Journal-Pilot in Carthage, IL. I found it on the internet and wanted to share it with you. It’s a delightful description of Marie and her impressive work ethic. She is an inspiration!

Perky waitress is reminder to be thankful for work

By Patsy Davis, Carthage | Nov 23, 2010

Recently my sisters and I took a road trip. Although we talk pretty much every day, we seldom get to spend much time actually hanging out together. As we started the day, we decided our destination would be the villages of Van Buren County in Iowa.

One of our stops along the way was the Dutchman’s Store in Cantrell. While there, we amassed quite a stock of great buys. I personally bought 50 pounds of potatoes, three long wheels of cheese and enough pastry flour to last into the next decade. (Keep in mind I live by myself.)

It took two shopping carts to get all our treasures out to my car. By the time it was loaded, the rear was sagging. We just winked at each other, and jumped back into the car to continue our trek.

We stopped by several quaint, little shops along the way. Many were already closed for the season. We spent the morning riding, visiting and commenting on the sights. Once we even called the number on a realty sign to check out the price of one of the old historical houses in Bentonsport. Were we really going to buy a house there? Not really, but it was great adventure to find out the cost.

We laughed. We made fun of each other. It was a good day to forget all the chores we each encountered daily. We got lost on a gravel road for at least a half hour, and received directions from two different fellows, each one giving us different directions.

Anyway, we found our way to a “hard road” and proceeded on with the trip.

We stopped at the Bonaparte Retreat for lunch. This is a charming restaurant that used to be a mill. The smell was delightful as we read the blackboard of specials at the front door. We could seat ourselves, and made sure we were all up against the wall so we could see who was coming and going.

We were soon greeted by the most charming little lady. She placed her hand on my shoulder and asked us if we three girls were out stirring up trouble for the day. We all laughed and assured her she had “hit the nail on the head.”

She had gray, curly hair, was slight in build, and her hands showed the signs of years of hard work. She wore a clean, pressed apron and an infectious smile.

She took our order – homemade beef and noodles on top of real mashed potatoes. It was not a hard decision to make, and yes, they had mile-high homemade pies for dessert.

She returned with our drinks and soon the meal arrived. Each time she came to the table she would visit with us. I turned to my sisters and said, “When I grow up, I want to be just like her.” We laughed.

We tried to guess how old she might be. When she came back with our tickets, I told her what I had said and she smiled. She said she had been waiting tables for the owner for 26 years. She told us she was 87 years old. Yes, 87 years old. Keep in mind, she was carrying big trays of food and drinks, and seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

What an amazing woman. I left the restaurant thinking that I had found a new hero. In an age where everyone is trying to find that special loophole in the system, where they don’t have to work, here is a woman that started waiting tables after she was retirement age.

I wish everyone could encounter this lovely lady. Talking to her just might make you reflect on how you have lived your life, and what you might need to do to make it better.

Working hard isn’t a bad thing. When we get up everyday and put on a good face, we are showing our children that working and making a legitimate living is a true blessing. Whether it be sitting in an office with a starched white shirt, or waiting tables with a starched white apron, there is a certain respect that working folks demand.

We should all lead by example. We should impress our kids with values so they will want to succeed. Little is accomplished by “working the system.”

In this recession, there are many who are feeling the effects of job layoffs and downsizing. I, myself, am encountering the effects. I don’t like it, but I am not going to let it get me down.

If I learned one thing on our little trip, it would be the fact that it is never too late. We can feel sorry for ourselves for what the economy has done to us, or we can make do with what God has given us. I am sure that my new friend, Marie, would say the same thing.

I am thankful that my sisters and I took this little road trip, and that this special little lady came into my life so I could tell this story.

Sidney J. Phillips once said, “Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they need is at the end of their own arm.”

Think about that.

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6 Responses to “Celebrating Norman Zierold’s 90th birthday at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant we met Marie”

  1. Margot D Suettmann Says:

    Great report! Happy Birthday, dear Norman!!! He is one of the best!!! Happy you had a fun day! Best wishes to Norman and you!


    • Ken Chawkin Says:

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, Margot. I shared them with Norman. I also introduced him to Vernon Katz later that afternoon during a break in the course he was giving on the Brahma Sutras with Raja Peter and his Total Knowledge course. Vernon had turned 90 a few weeks earlier during his visit to Vancouver, BC, Canada, where he spoke with Tom Egenes during a course he was leading at UBC.


      • Margot D Suettmann Says:

        Perfect. Norman is such a refined (in the best sense of the meaning) individual, a real gentle-man. Happy, both met.


  2. cshaw Says:

    Nice. Happy Birthday Norman!

    Jai Guru Dev



  3. potted purple petunias poem @kenchawkin pays homage to @W_C_Williams’s red wheelbarrow | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Norman and I get into my car parked across the street from Thai Deli where we just had lunch. It’s hot so we wait for the AC to kick in and cool down. He points out the beautiful petunias on the sidewalk in front of us. They’re purple, planted in pots, and placed on both sides of a doorway. Playing with the ‘p’ sound, I come up with a line that has seven syllables in it. I’m reminded of The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams and think of a similar opening. Noticing the backdrop, I finish the last line of the haiku. Coincidentally, I later discover it has the same word ‘white’ in it. I return the next day to take this photo to go with it. […]


  4. Norman Zierold: Hollywood biographer, novelist, TM Teacher, member of Maharishi’s Purusha program, raconteur, publicist, beloved by all | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Related blog posts on Norman Zierold: The Chronicle of Higher Education: Notes From Academe: The Spokesman Who Kept Calling | Diane Vance and Norman Zierold discuss his new memoir, That Reminds Me, at Revelations Café | You can read more lovely articles and listen to a few fascinating interviews with Norman about his book in this post by scrolling down to Articles, Interviews, and Update: That Reminds Me: A Conversational Memoir by Hollywood biographer Norman Zierold is now out! | Norman Zierold: A Charmed Life | Celebrated Hollywood Author Reminisces on Six Decades of Extraordinary Encounters | THE REMARKABLE DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION — written by Norman Zierold for Healthy Referral | Celebrating Norman Zierold’s 90th birthday at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant we met Marie. […]


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