Lonny Heiner and his bride of fifty-seven years, affectionately known as Bunny, married in August of 1959. They raised two children, built businesses, and through it all grew up together. Fifty-seven years later this dynamic duo is still going strong.
They met in March of 1959, after their fourth date they were engaged and by August they were married. Young and ambitious, they started a life together and over the years have formed a deep friendship and a life of mutual respect and love.
They were attending the University of Alaska in Fairbanks when they met. Lonny was a junior and Bunny was a freshman. Lonny walked into the women’s dorm and saw an old friend of his from his hometown and he asked her, “When are you going to marry me?” It was a running joke between them from a play they done together years ago. Bunny was sitting at the desk by the front door and jokingly said, “Well, you can ask me.” So he did and she said yes. He gave her his high school signet ring and invited her to a dance, their first date.
“I didn’t want to lose her,” Lonny said. He just knew this was the one.
The University of Alaska required male students to take two years of ROTC. Now that Lonny was married he dropped out of ROTC in his senior year. This was the time during the Vietnam War when married men were not required to enlist.
It was 1960, Lonny was going to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering; however, that April, a month before graduation, the university told him he could not graduate because he had not completed ROTC. This forced him to return for one more year of ROTC and serve in the Army as an officer for a six-month commitment and a longer time in the Army Reserve.
After graduation he was sent to Ft. Lewis in Washington State for officer training, leaving behind his bride and their small child. After officer training his orders sent him, his new bride, and their first child to their first base. His six-month commitment was extended to two years due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lonny discovered he could shorten his two years by three months if he went back to school, so he applied for a masters degree program at the University of Alaska and took his family home.
During their time in the Army, Lonny’s pay was only $222.50 per month, and with two small children, Bunny continued to work outside of the home. Life was hard, but then it usually is for young newlyweds.
Out of the Army now and back in Alaska, Lonny worked on his masters. He also taught classes in the mineral industries program. By the age of twenty-nine, the university offered Lonny tenure. He took one look around and decided it wasn’t for him.
With two friends, they started a business they named Resource Associates of Alaska, a minerals exploration company.
The office was located on Dead End Alley, but the business was far from being a dead end business. In fact, it became quite successful.
“We got lucky, it didn’t fail,” Lonny said.
The reason they succeeded, he said, is that “Alaska is a complicated place with very few roads.”
Lonny’s company understood the logistics needed for companies to explore in Alaska. Coordinating fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, boats, ships, geologists, tent camps, food, equipment, horses—they were the experts in logistics and understood the Alaska terrain. This, along with superior geologic talent, enabled them to efficiently conduct contract minerals exploration for major mining and oil and gas companies.
The business started around 1970 and boomed to where they had eleven exploration crews at their peak, and any where from two to three hundred geologists and support staff in the summers. In the winter, they averaged around sixty employees. And to think, payroll was initially done by hand.
Bunny worked on campus to support their family that first year, while Lonny and his partners got the business off the ground. In the second year, they brought Bunny into the business to manage the office, payroll, bookkeeping, editing of papers, and other duties required. As the company grew, which meant more employees, Bunny left and returned to school.
It took Bunny fifteen years to get her first degree, what with two children and supporting Lonny through college, and then helping him get his business off the ground. She had over two hundred credits once she finished. Her first degree was in English and anthropology; she was thirty-three. She later went on to get a degree in journalism.
She became the features editor for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner for seven years. During this time, Bunny and Lonny started a magazine on commodities investment and she was the editor-in-chief. And if that wasn’t enough, she did freelance editing and raised two boys. Life was good and it was busy.
In the late seventies, companies started to court them to buy them out. The wooing lasted until 1981, when they finally sold to a company out of Portland, Oregon. The agreement required that Lonny had to stay on as CEO for five years. They weren’t just buying the company, they were purchasing Lonny’s knowledge. Lonny countered and said he would not move out of Alaska.
Three years later, a corporate jet arrived in Fairbanks and the executives made an offer Lonny and Bunny could not refuse. The only problem, it required moving out of the state of Alaska. The company paid all expenses for 105 families to be relocated to Vancouver, Washington, and eventually made Lonny the CEO of the company that had bought him out just three short years earlier. The majority owner was Pacific Power and Light in Portland, Oregon.
During his time there, Lonny acquired mining companies, making them the 20th largest silver producing mining company in the United States. Eventually adding gas and oil, they became the fastest growing oil and gas company in the nation.
Once they moved to Vancouver, Bunny became involved in the arts community and started immersing herself in fundraisers for local arts, theaters, and charities. Lonny and Bunny shared a passion for the arts and live theater, something they still share.
In 1992 Lonny retired from the company. They spent two years looking for a new home. They landed in LaConner first and then made the final move to Anacortes, where they have finally settled down, at least a little.
For a brief time, he partnered with a friend to create Staffing Options and Solutions, recruiting talent for technology companies like Microsoft, but after the dot.com bubble burst and his partner developed cancer, the business closed. Lonny retired once again.
With their busy lives, it was hard to find time together, even when they worked together. During the last seventeen years of the thirty years they lived in Fairbanks, with their busy lives, the most time they actually spent together was three weeks, they did just four times. Now that they are retired they have found each other’s company once again.
What they learned from working together all these years is to give each other space, not to micro-manage, and to trust and respect each other.
Today, Lonny’s main job is to cook. He loves to cook and they love to entertain.
“I am very fortunate in friendships,” Bunny said.
Her longest time friend has been a major part of her life for seventy-three years. And through the years that support system kept her going.
Bunny is active in local events and charities. She is a Master Gardner, belongs to AAUW, is passionate about politics, and with her large family she handwrites over 1200 cards per year, which Lonny makes.
They are still passionate about the arts and live theater and attend whenever they can. Lonny applies his artistic talent to photography. And due to their love of remodeling houses, he took up cabinetry after retirement.
Like any couple, they have been through so much together, in business and in life. They have learned from each other, depended on the other for support, held strong in the down times and soared in the good times. After fifty-seven years, Lonny still calls Bunny his bride. Their dedication and support through the years has strengthened their relationship and gives them a solid foundation in which to continue a life-long friendship and love.
They are true inspiration to love and dedication.
Happy Valentine’s to the newlyweds of fifty-seven years. May the honeymoon last for a long, long time.