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Renee Richardson, Forum News Service, Published February 04 2014

Brainerd council president found dead at home

BRAINERD, Minn. - Brainerd’s city council president and former mayor and teacher was found dead in her home Monday night.

Soft-spoken and quick to offer an encouraging word to others, Bonnie Cumberland provided an example of strength and endurance as she battled cancer. Her sudden death at the age of 67 was a shock to her fellow council members Monday night.

“The entire council and all of our people are entirely in shock,” Mayor James Wallin said. “She was one beautiful lady and an excellent representative for the city of Brainerd.

“... To me it’s tragic we lost such a beautiful lady — in the prime of her life yet. Everybody was in shock tonight.”

When the former Brainerd mayor and long-time city council member didn’t arrive for Monday’s regular council session, Brainerd police officers were dispatched to her home and found her inside.

In the late 1990s, when Cumberland was serving as Brainerd mayor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She served as mayor for eight years. At the time, she said people often said “You’re Bonnie. You’re the mayor with breast cancer.”

In subsequent Dispatch interviews, Cumberland said surviving breast cancer made her appreciate life more. She retired from Brainerd High School in 2002 after 34 years as a marketing teacher.

She was active in her church and the community, serving on the Brainerd Public Utilities Commission. Cumberland was Brainerd Citizen of the Year in 2001. She was co-president of Alpha Delta Kappa, a teaching sorority. She was an honorary chair for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

“She was really just a joy to work with,” Wallin said. “She was so dedicated to the city and the community in so many ways. She was really an attribute to the city and council and just a wonderful lady. It comes as just a shock to us.”

Cumberland was described as a dedicated and energetic council president who, as a strong advocate for Brainerd, always wanted to make the city better.

“I was proud and honored to serve with her,” Wallin said, noting Cumberland wanted to see the city grow and be recognized as a beautiful place. “She was going to do everything she could to make this a better town and work with people.”