Cover photo for Max L. Bonham's Obituary
Max L. Bonham Profile Photo

Max L. Bonham

January 27, 1927 — March 24, 2023


Max L. Bonham


Max Loyal Bonham was born January 27, 1927 on a farm south of Franklin, Nebraska to Claude and Louise (Palmer) Bonham. He attended school in that district until age eleven when his parents, with Max and his two brothers, moved to a farm at the west edge of Franklin on Center Creek. Max enrolled in the Franklin public schools and was graduated with the Class of 1944.

After attending the University of Nebraska for one semester, he applied for and received an appointment to the Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island, New York.  Here he received his degree in Marine Engineering. Following graduation, he began working for the Texas Company as an engineer on oil tankers.

On December 24, 1950 he married a former high school classmate, Barbara Thomas. They lived in Port Arthur, Texas for two years, before he quit sailing for the Texas Company and entered the Navy as a First Lieutenant. During his two years in the Navy, the Korean War ended and he spent a year in Japan until his discharge from the service. Upon his return home, he and Barbara bought a small farm near Naponee, Nebraska.

After farming for nine years, Max bought the grain elevator in Naponee. Later he also bought and operated the grain elevator in Agra, Kansas. He retired from the elevator business in 1973 at the age of 46.

After seven years of retirement, Max entered the Creighton University Law School in Omaha, Nebraska. He obtained his law degree and passed the Nebraska Bar, but decided not to pursue a career in law. Instead he began to study art, taking courses for several years at Creighton and at Bellevue Community College. He and Barbara continued to live in Omaha during the school terms and spent their summers at their home on Wasp Creek east of Franklin after selling their farm home in Naponee.

Max’s interest in art prompted him to join a newly organized art group in Franklin. He converted the former Carnegie Library building into an art studio and gallery.

Max was an explorer. His unknown country was himself. There he sought abilities and talents, and once one was discovered and developed, he sought another. On this journey of self-discovery, he became a marine engineer, a farmer, a businessman, a lawyer and an artist. His quest for knowledge led him down many paths, from learning how the human brain functions to studying the mysteries of the cosmos.

He was a gentle man whose love enriched the life of his wife beyond measure. He is survived by his loving wife of 72 years, Barbara Lee.


Max died Friday, March 24, 2023 at the Bethany Home in Minden, Nebraska. His written instructions were for direct cremation and a private inurnment beside his parents in Greenwood Cemetery, Franklin, Nebraska. Hutchins Funeral Home, Franklin assisted the Bonham family with these arrangements.

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