Obituary of Merrill "Dee" Tonning, Jr
Merrill “Dee” Tonning Jr. passed away at home in Boise on Sunday August 1, 2021 of natural causes, he was 87. The family was fortunate as we were able to have spent most of the prior day with Dee at home.
Dee was born on January 13, 1934 in Weiser, Idaho to Merrill D. Sr. and Edwina Tonning, he was the oldest for four children (Arlene, Paul, and Kristeen). He graduated from Boise High School in 1952 and started at Boise Junior College that same year. Dee played saxophone and clarinet in the bands at both Boise High and BJC. He graduated from BJC with an associate’s degree in 1954.
In 1955 Dee enlisted in the Army where he was assigned to the 158th Army Band. In January of 1956 he was assigned to Germany. Dee was stationed in Heidelberg Germany and quickly found out that the people were welcoming and nice to the Americans. In Heidelberg he was assigned to the 33rd Army Band. During this time, he traveled into Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. He often spoke of how much he loved Germany the beer and people. Later in life he was able to travel back to Europe and visit Heidelberg with his wife Bonnie, his sister Kristeen and her husband George.
Dee returned home to Boise in May of 1957 and in June of 1957 he was hired by the Idaho Transportation Department in Boise. Dee had a very successful 38-year career with the Idaho State Transportation Department until he retired in October of 1995.
In 1959 Dee met Bonnie Jean Gartner of Filer Idaho who was living in Boise with her roommate Marilyn at the time. On March 26, 1961, a cold and snowy day, they were married in Buhl, Idaho in Clover Trinity Lutheran Church. In April of 1962, days before their first son Dan was born, Dee and Bonnie moved into their new house on Edson Street in Boise where they lived until 1990. Nineteen months later, in early November of 1963 daughter Lisa was born. About 2 years later in September 1965 their third child Matt was born.
In the early 1970s Dee went back to school at Boise State College, while working full time and raising a family to pursue his Bachelor’s degree. Dee graduated from BSC in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics degree.
Dee was an accomplished musician playing the alto, tenor and baritone saxophone as well as the clarinet. Dee played in the Boise City Band and The Kings of Swing, just to name a few bands he was invited to play in. The family would watch him play during the summers at the Julia Davis Park Band Shell in Boise, help him set up for his performances and join him in Sun Valley for the Jazz Festival. Dee continued to play with many bands throughout the years and in 2012, Dee decided to play his final gig.
The family will miss his music, his kindness and most of all, his humor. Dee was always there to crack a joke or tell a funny story about the band or his days in the Army. Dee leaves his wife of 60 years, Bonnie, his sons Dan and Matt (Stephanie), daughter Lisa (Wayne), granddaughters Brandy (Dustin), Nicole (Josh), Hailey, Morgan, Kayla (Kyle) and grandsons Dustin and Drew, 9 ½ greatgrandchildren, sister Kristeen (George) and numerous other family members.
“The song has ended but the melody lingers on.”To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Merrill Tonning, Jr, please visit Tribute Store