Actor, Director, Comedian and Teacher: Peter Bonerz of Portsmouth New Hampshire (1938-Still Living)

Photo of Peter Bonerz from the 1956 Marquette High School Year Book.

Peter Bonerz is quoted as saying, “I consider myself as a once upon a time, a minor celebrity.” This unassuming gentleman is so much more.  Most of us remember him for his role as Dr. Jerry on ‘The Bob Newhart Show,’ but he also directed two of my all time favorite shows, ‘Friends’ and ‘Home Improvement.’  Very few realize that he was born in New Hampshire.

1958 Marquette University Yearbook showing Peter Bonerz and two others entertaining.

Peter Roman Bonerz [not Peter Baldwin as some biographies state] was born 6 August 1938 in Portsmouth NH, son of Christopher & Elfreida A. (Kern) Bonerz.  His parents were probably living in New Hampshire because Christopher worked on submarines, and Portsmouth was then the location where some were being built.

His residency in New Hampshire was short-lived. Peter’s family had recently moved back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the Bonerz extended family were residing, when Peter’s father died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 48.  In an interview Peter would say “”I was brought up by my mother and my grandmother.”

Peter graduated from Marquette High School in 1956, followed by Marquette University [reportedly in 1961 he was at Columbia University]. A story in “The Times” newspaper of San Mateo California in May 1968 stated
The day after his graduation from Marquette College he took his total savings of $200 earned as a jazz drummer and went to New York to act. Not much happened at first. Daytime, he worked at Lord and Taylor selling socks and ties. At night, he performed at various nightclubs without pay. His first professional job with The Premise, an improvisational theatre was interrupted by two years of directing and acting in Army training films. The day after his discharge he married a girl he had known in the fourth grade, and again became an unemployed actor.”

1974 PR photograph of Peter Bonerz.

And indeed, a few years after graduation (in 1963) he married “his childhood crush,” Rosalind “Roz” DiTrapani.They have had two children, Eric and Eli. Peter served in the United States Army for two years, assigned to the Army Pictorial Center in NYC. There he reportedly wrote, directed and acted in recruiting and training films.

Several biographies in newspapers state that he spent time with San Francisco’s famed improvisational group, “The Committee.”  He appeared in several television shows (see the biographies below for a list of them).  His television directing debut arrived on December 1973 when he directed an episode of “The Bob Newhart Show,” a series broadcast on CBS Television Network. He portrayed orthodontist Jerry Robinson on the same show. (He had previously directed stage productions).

Peter Bonerz has gone on to direct many more television shows and movies, usually on a low budget.  I have no idea whether he ever returned to his native state, nor if he plans to.  But at any rate, we can be proud of this native son.

———–PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF PETER BONERZ———–

—–FIRST GENERATION—–

— Bonerz
——————–
Children:
1. Franz “Frank” Bonerz, b Oct 1836 Prussia, single; died 24 March 1910 aged 73. Buried Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee WI
2. +Peter [Petri] Bonerz, b Nov 1839 Prussia

—–SECOND GENERATION—–

Peter [Petri] Bonerz, b. Nov 1839 [or 11 Dec 1839] in Rhenish Prussia Germany (Rheinland, Preuben, Germany OR Alcase Lorraine France, died 28 Sep 1924; immigrated about 1866; married Barbara [nee Schwendell]. They lived at 461 41st Street, Milwaukee Wisconsin. She b. Aug 1848 in Bavaria Germany, died 7 May 1926 Milwaukee WI; He was naturalized. Buried Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee WI.
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November 20, 1968 Wednesday, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee Wisc)
Bonerz, Christopher (Chris H.)
14855 Watertown Pank rd., age 73 years. Nov 18. beloved husband of Lucille (nee Miller). father of C. Robert, Lucile Binder and Mary Steppe. brother of Anthony J. Bonerz, father-in-law of Roy Binder and Joseph Steppe, grandfather of Mary Pat, Richard, and John Binder, Laure Marie, James, Jeffrey and Jon Steppe, son-in-law of Arthur J. Miller; brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, other relatives also survive. Funeral Thurs 9:15 am from Jelacic Funeral Home, 5639 W Hampton av to St. Dominic church at 10 am Interment Holy Cross. …
—————————
1880 US Census > WI > Milwaukee > Wauwatosa
Peter Boeneiz 41
Barbara Boeneiz 31
Peter Boeneiz 9 [b abt 1871]
Philip Boeneiz 5
Theresa Boeneiz 3
Joseph Boneiz 1
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1900 US Census > Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Peter Bonerz 60 imm 1866 Milk Dealer
Barbara Bonerz 51 Aug 1848 married 31 yrs 12 ch 6 livig imm 1854
Phillip Bonerz 25
Theresa Bonerz 23
Joseph Bonerz 21
Anton Bonerz 19
Nick Bonerz 11
Christan Bonerz 5
Frank Bonerz 63
—————————
Children of Peter & Barbara (Schwendell) Bonerz:
1. +Peter Bonerz b abt 1871 Wisconsin
2. Phillip Bonerz, b Oct 1874 Wisconsin
3. Theresa Bonerz, b. Dec 1876 Wisconsin; d. 21 Oct 1930; buried Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee WI
4. Joseph Philip Bonerz b 12 Jan 1879 Wisconsin, d. 21 August 1963; iron worker; m. Margaret (?Brown). They had a son Elroy A. Bonerz b 1922 Milwaukee, WI, died 1995 Wisconsin. [In 1972 while still alive, Elroy held own wake] [WWI registration]
5. Anthony John “Anton” Bonerz, b. 20 Dec 1880 Wauwautosa, Wisconsin; d. April 1979 Milwaukee WI; m. 27 Nov 1907 in Milwaukee WI to Jeanette Bohm, dau of John & Mary (Wamser) Bohm. He m2d) Ella –. She b. 1888 and d. 1979 in Wisconsin.  [WWI registration]
6. Nicolaus F. “Nick” Bonerz, b Apr 1889 Wisconsin, d. Aug 29, 1916; buried holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee WI
7. Christopher Herbert “Christian” Bonerz, b 9 Jan 1895 Wautosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, template maker [or Christopher A. Bonersz., b 7 July 1892 Wisconsin

—–THIRD GENERATION—–

Peter Bonerz, son of Peter & Barbara (Schwendl/Schneider) Bonerz b abt 1871 Milwaukee Wisconsin, died before 1897 when his wife Agnes is called a widow on her 2nd marriage record; He married 14 Oct 1891 in Milwaukee Wisconsin to Agnes Schneider, dau of Christoph & Josephine (Schnoms) Schneider. She b. Feb 1871 in Germany and d –. She m2d) on 6 July 1897 to Joseph Williams/Willems, son of John & Margareth (Starck) Willems. He was b. Oct 1868 in Wisconsin in 1900 a laborer in a machine shop.
——————————————–
1900 US Census > Wisc > Milwaukee > Wauwatosa town
Joseph Williams Head M 32 Wisconsin, Oct 1868 Wisconsin; fa b Germany, mo b Wisc
Agnes Williams wife F 29 Germany, b. Feb 1871, married 3 yrs [1897]; immigrated 1891
Clara Williams dau F 2 Wisconsin, b. Apr 1898
Gilbert Williams son M 1 Wisconsin, b. Nov 1899
William Bonerz stepson M 8 Wisconsin, b. July 1892
Peter Bonerz stepson M 7 Wisconsin, b. Oct 1893
——————————————–
Children of Peter & Agnes (Schneider) Bonerz:
1. Franz Joseph Bonerz, b. 24 Nov 1891 Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, d. 1892
2. +Christopher A. “William” Bonerz, b. 7 July 1892 Milwaukee Wisconsin d, 1940
[birth]
3. Peter Michael/Michel Bonerz, b. 7 Oct 1893 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

—–FIFTH GENERATION—–

Christopher A. Bonerz, son of Peter & Agnes (Schnider) Bonerz was born 7 July 1892 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He d. 6 July 1940; He married 1 Sep 1937 in Portsmouth NH to Elfrieda Anna Kern, daughter of Peter & Catharine/Katherine (Gregoins/Gregorious) Kern. She b. 24 May 1900 and d. 2 May 1967 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. During WWI he was a Sergeant in the 304th Brigade Tank Corps, and later an electrical engineer. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  [See more details in the newspaper clippings transcribed below].
——————
SSD INDEX STATES
Christopher A Bonerz
b 7 July 1892 Milwaukee Wisconsin
d. 6 July 1940
claim: 15 July 1940 Death Claim
——————
1920 US Census > NY > NY > Bronx
Bonerz, Christopher Wisc Wisc Wisc Foreman, Electrical
——————
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth NH, 8 July 1938
C.A. Bonerz, Middle Street, Portsmouth, a World War veteran, was discharged to his home today from the naval hospital.
——————
Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, Monday 8 July 1940, page 18
Christopher Bonerz, Funeral on Tuesday. “Funeral Services will be held Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. for Christopher A. Bonerz, 47, of Hales Corners, electrical control inventor and former U.S. army intelligence officer, who died Friday.
Mr. Bonerz, a graduate of the Uniersity of Wisconsin, was an electrical engineer at Cutler-Hammer Inc., and helped install electrical equipment in submarines. He invented the electrical control on linotype machine melting pots.
Services will be held at the J.H. Becker chapel. W. Lisbon av, and N. Fifty-fourth Street, and at St. Boniface church at 9 a.m.
————————–
Milwaukee Journal July 8, 1940 page 11
Arrange Rites of C.A. Bonzerz / Electrical Engineer Who Worked on Submarines To Be Buried Tuesday / Military funeral services for Christopher A. Bonerz, an electrical enginer for Cutler-Hammer Inc., who installed equipment in numerous United States submarines, will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Becker chapel, 5330 W. Lisbon av., at at 9 a.m. at St. Boniface Church. Members of Electric post No. 228, American Legion, and of the 107th battalion, signal corps, 32nd division, will conduct the services. Burial will be in Arlington Cemetery. Mr. Bonerz installed equipment in the submarine Squalus three days before its fatal dive. For three years he did electrical installation work or the Cutler-Hammer company at the United States naval yards in Portsmouth, N.H., returning to live in Milwaukee in January 1939. He died suddenly of a heart attack in his sleep early Saturday at his home at Hales Corner, one day before his forty-eighty birthday anniversary on Sunday. He was born here and joined the electric firm at the age of 17. During the World war he served overseas in a tank division, instructing other soldiers in the use of the weapon as well as fighting the enemy. He was a first lieutenant in Company C., of the 107th field signal corps. He was a member of Electric post of the legion.  Mr. Bonerz studied electric engineering at Columbia university, New York City. Surviving are his wife, Elfreida; a son, Peter Roman Bonerz, and a step-sister, Mrs. Clara Ehleiter, of Milwaukee.
——————
1940 United States Census > Wisc > Milwaukee > Greenfield . 104th Street
Bonerz, Christopher head M W 47 married HS-4 yrs Wisc, Milwaukee electrical tester, electrical supplies
Bonerz, Alfrieda wife F W 39 married 8yrs school, Wisconsin
Bonerz, Peter Roman, son M W 1 single Wisconsin
——————-
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee Wisc) Thursday May 4, 1967
BONERZ, Elfrieda A. Nee Kern. May 3, 1967, residence 2935 N 53d st., mother of Peter Bonerz, sister of Mrs. Rumilda (Joseph) Gigl, Roland Kern, Clarence Kern and Thomas Kern. Body willed to the Marquette Medical school for teaching and research. No flowers are requested, but memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 728 N. Jefferson. Requiem high mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Fri., May 5, at St. Catherine’s Church, 51st and Center.
—————————
Child of Christopher A. & Elfreida A. (Kern) Bonerz:
1. Peter Roman Bonerz, b. 6 Aug 1938 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He married in Manhattan NY in 1963 to Rosalind Di Trapani.   This story is about him, see photographs and biography above.

***ADDITIONAL READING***

VIDEO: Peter Bonerz (Television Academy Foundation)
VIDEO: Police Academy 6 Interview with Peter Bonerz
PODCAST: Gilbert Godfrey’s Amazing Podcast: Peter Bonerz (Interview on YouTube)
BIOGRAPHY of Peter Bonerz (TCM)

 

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2 Responses to Actor, Director, Comedian and Teacher: Peter Bonerz of Portsmouth New Hampshire (1938-Still Living)

  1. Amy says:

    I remember him well! Fun post.

  2. I had no idea he was from New Hampshire! He was definitely a favorite of mine on the Bob Newhart show.

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