Shared from the 6/23/2019 The Virginian-Pilot eEdition





Gary Bonnewell was recently named president of the Norfolk Sister Cities Association board of directors.

Gary Bonnewell is a local. He likes to tell people, “I lived in the same ZIP code from first grade until my fourth year of college.”

The new president of the Norfolk Sister City Associationboardofdirectorsgrew up in Elizabeth Park and has been a financial planner for approximately 30 years.

He and his wife, Debbie, were married in 1988, the same year he proposed by way of an airplane flying a banner with a marriage proposal written on it as thousands watched during an Azalea Festival air show. Bonnewell volunteered for the festival for many years, and currently serves on the NATOFest committee. The annual event salutes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, based in Norfolk.

Bonnewell said he likes helping people become financially healthy. He is there to help in good times and bad. Recently, after a client died, his 19-year-old daughterreachedouttoBonnewell to seek advice from someone she trusted.

People’s “temperament for financial risk needs to be buffered by an unbiased opinion,” he said. “We collaborate. I’m there for them.”

When asked to take on the NSCA leadership role, Bonnewell didn’t hesitate to say yes, saying he was happy to lead the group that promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation between his hometown and across the globe.

“Norfolk is an international city by the very nature of NATO being here,” he said.

He believes in the value of the organization and its motto, “Peace through People.” Norfolk Sister City Association was formed to “bridge the Cold War gap” and gain trust between countries, he said.

NSCA is part of Sister Cities International. Its goal is to promote cooperation and understanding between Norfolk and its international sister cities.

Norfolk citizens meet others from international cities and realize the commonalities, Bonnewell said. Relationships with other cities and countries can bring educational,socialandeconomic benefits, he says, adding that “it’s important for us to have that world view.”

Norfolk’s sister cities are Kitakyushu, Japan;

Wilhelmshaven, Germany; Norfolk County, England; Toulon, France; Kaliningrad, Russia; Halifax, Canada; Kochi, India; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Tema, Ghana; and the friendship city of Ningbo-Beilun, China.

Cindy Butler Focke,

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