Surgeon Manuel Bonnemaison Dies
By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2004; Page B05
Dr. Manuel F.E. Bonnemaison, 73, an orthopedic surgeon, trauma specialist and professor who, in retirement, was active with the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast, died July 4 at Virginia Hospital Center-Arlington after a massive brain hemorrhage.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Bonnemaison, native of Peru, was invited to the prayer breakfast, and by 1984 he had started a fellowship group of business and government leaders in Lima, where he spent most of his career. The group met regularly for breakfast and prayer.
In 1990, he retired to the United States, settling in Arlington County, where he was a volunteer with the foundation that supports the National Prayer Breakfast.
He told friends and family that he had been caring for people's bodies all his life and that he wanted to help their souls. At the National Presbyterian Church in Washington for the past four years, he was an instructor in the Alpha Course, a method of witnessing and Bible study, and was a medical consultant to missionary organizations in Peru.
Dr. Bonnemaison was born in Lima and spent his boyhood in the town of Ancon on the Pacific coast. His father and grandfather, both also named Manuel Bonnemaison, were diplomats who had served as ambassadors to several countries. His grandfather was also a naval hero, known for his exploits in war between Peru and Chile.
Dr. Bonnemaison also served on the Peruvian navy's scuba diving team and was a scuba diving instructor. But when he chose a profession, he followed in the footsteps of his mother's father, Francisco Graña Reyes, a surgeon in Lima and president of the International College of Surgeons.
After medical school in Peru, Dr. Bonnemaison completed his residency at Georgetown University Hospital and then spent two years at Northwestern University's Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago and four years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Although he could have stayed at the Mayo Clinic, he decided to return to Peru. "There were a lot of good doctors at the Mayo Clinic, but the people of Peru needed my help more," he once told his daughter, Mari Bonnemaison-Moore of Bethesda.
Dr. Bonnemaison eventually became the most prominent orthopedic surgeon in the nation.
He also was a professor at the University of San Marcos, the oldest medical school in Latin America.
Dr. Bonnemaison and his wife, Maria del Carmen Bonnemaison, the daughter of a Peruvian ambassador, met in London, courted in Lima and were married in Rome in 1959. David Laux, a longtime friend, recalled that the couple had an audience with Pope John XXIII just before the wedding. The pope blessed the marriage and advised the young physician to use his heart as well as his mind in his work as a surgeon.
Although he retired in 1990, Dr. Bonnemaison remained busy during his years in Arlington, particularly with his spiritual and social service endeavors. "After years of knocking himself out as a doctor, he really wanted to follow Jesus's example as a prophet," his daughter said.
He also earned his private pilot's license, collected rare books and classical music and became an expert at Peruvian and Italian cooking.
"He loved people, and he loved life. And there was nothing he liked to do more than to come over to your house and cook a meal for you," Laux recalled.
Dr. Bonnemaison served on the board of Prison Fellowship International for 12 years. He also was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Mayo Clinic and was a member of the Royal College of Medicine in London and the Medical and Surgical Society.
Survivors include his wife, of Arlington; his daughter; his son, Alejandro Bonnemaison of El Paso; two grandchildren; a brother; and a sister.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company