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Sonny was born in Laie, Oahu, Hawaii on December 30, 1937. In 1953 his family moved to Alameda, California, where he attended and graduated from Encinal High School in 1957. He was active in sports (lettering in football and track) and Army Reserve.
Sonny served a mission in Hawaii for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1958 to 1960. When he came home, he had various jobs while attending and playing football for Diablo Valley College. One of those jobs included directing traffic on the outskirts of Martinez, California, for a construction company. On her way to work each morning, Bonnie Oram began waving to him–first to let him know she saw him and would not hit him. Then she recognized him as someone she had seen at church dances and the waves got more friendly. They began dating in July 1964 and were married November 7, 1964, in Pleasant Hill, California. Their 54-plus years of marriage were filled with a lot of dancing and sports (which Bonnie learned to tolerate), laughter and “sonshine.”
Sonny was affiliated with Mt. Diablo Unified School District most of those 54 years. He began by volunteering to coach whatever sport needed coaching, his favorite being volleyball. He also belonged to an officiating organization and was known as one of the fairest umpires/referees by everyone. Over the years he coached mostly girls’ and some boys’ softball, basketball and volleyball teams for Pleasant Hill, College Park, Ygnacio Valley, Concord, and Northgate High Schools, as well as Diablo Valley College, resulting in many championship teams. He also coached sports at church and led many teams to win their tournaments. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the church had All-Church tournaments held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sonny’s volleyball team won the Ensign Championship tournament in 1970.
In his 20s Sonny was a professional Samoan Knife and Fire dancer, performing in various hotels in San Francisco, including the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel. He was one of the best Polynesian dancers in Northern California and often in demand at luaus.
In 1988, loving being around young people so much, Sonny became a school bus driver and retired in 2009, after 21 years. He loved the students and enjoyed making their bus rides fun and entertaining, teaching them how to use their arms and hands to “dance in their seats” when they got restless.
Retirement was not for Sonny so after a couple of years of staying home, he became a school crossing guard. Again, the happy person that he was, in spite of difficulty walking, he started playing music from his car and “dancing” the children across the street.
Sonny loved to play his ukulele and sing, often serenading Bonnie around the house. They taught ballroom dancing through church activities for 18 years. They also put on many luaus and dinners over the years: at church as well in the community.
For five years Sonny was on the fledgling Pleasant Hill Fourth of July commission and was greatly responsible for finding local dancing and singing groups to entertain at the park after the parade, a job that he worked at year-long. He was also active in the PTA for Pleasant Hill Elementary School during the years his children attended, especially working with Carnoween.
After retirement, Sonny also joined ukulele groups and singing groups, entertaining with various organizations throughout the community.
If you went anywhere with Sonny, you would not be with him long before someone would come up to him and say, “Remember me? I rode your bus.” “I was on your volleyball (or basketball) team.” “I played football with you.” Everyone knew and loved Sonny.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie. Their daughter, Elizabeth, preceded him in death in 1980. His son Russell and wife Kristy Henning Fonoimoana, grandsons Toa, Sam and Luke, reside in Sparks, Nevada; granddaughter, Tiare, resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.
At his request, there will be no public service. Keep your memories of Sonny close to your heart and know he is singing and dancing with a beautiful smile on his face in Heaven.
Any donations to his memory can be made to an organization of your choice or to Humanitarian Services of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. https://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services
LDS Philanthropies/Missionary Fund
1450 N. University Ave., PROVO UT 84604