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Dennis and Kelly Bonvie of Dallas -- Why NEPA? image
August 01, 2023
Dennis and Kelly Bonvie of Dallas -- Why NEPA?

"From that first day we got here in 1999, it was all so community-oriented and everyone wanted to help out. It just felt like home right from the get-go. Still does.” – Kelly Bonvie

It was professional hockey that brought Dennis and Kelly Bonvie from Antigonish, Nova Scotia to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Yeah. You probably said that wrong (one word, very quickly — Annie-Guh-nish). It’s a small, university town in Canada about 1,650 miles to our northeast. For this sweetheart couple, however, it might as well be right next door. The rolling green hills dotted with church steeples and brick chimneys proves nearly a spot-on match for much of NEPA.

Both enjoyed a quiet, small town, blue-collar upbringing. I guess you’d call it a classic, boy-meets-girl story. Kelly was the cool, city girl. Dennis was a bumpkin from a few towns over (his class graduated 42 students). They crossed paths here and there as you do in a small town. She’d show up at his hockey games, because she loved hockey, of course. And not because she had a “thing” for the brooding right winger. Eventually, the shy tough guy steeled his nerve enough to ask her out. They spent a summer hanging out. It was, in their words, not mine, a fling that just kind of never ended.

The couple made their move to NEPA in 1999. Dennis, who had gained notoriety as one of professional hockey’s most brutal enforcers, settled in with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Soon, two darling children entered the frame followed by a dog and a peaceful home in the Back Mountain. Dennis hung up the skates in 2008 after a 16-year professional career. He’s now the Director of Pro Scouting for the Boston Bruins. Kelly is the Stewardship Coordinator at Wilkes University. And while travel remains a consistent aspect of their professional lives, the Bonvies proudly call NEPA their home base.

We caught up with NEPA’s very own first couple of hockey at Common Grounds Caffe in Kingston. We covered it all from hockey and golf and good friends to just about everything in between. And, when all was said and done, they took our biggest, toughest question — Why NEPA? — pulled its jersey over its head and pummeled it to the ice.


How long have you lived in NEPA?

Dennis: Since 1999, right?

Kelly: Yeah. The first year that the Penguins came here.

What do you love about your town?

Kelly: Number one – the people. Just so many friendly, community-minded and supportive people. The older I get, the more I appreciate being in a place where we have a little space. We still have access to all of these wonderful cities, and it’s easy for Dennis to get where he needs to go for his job, but you always get to retreat back to home where you feel like you have a little room to move.

Dennis: Location is definitely key for what I do. But she’s definitely not a big city kind of girl. She enjoys the simplicity of small-town life and that’s what we grew up with. I can do the city thing because I have to sometimes, but it makes it more enjoyable to know that you have this familiar place to come home to. Obviously, like Kelly said, it’s about the people. I like how you always got someone who’s connected to someone else who could help you out here and there. I made some of my best friends right off the bat when I first got here like Larry Danko at Danko’s American Fitness and Jerry Natishan at Green Valley Landscaping. And we’re still great friends to this day. It’s like a small town. Everybody’s always trying to keep everyone else afloat. We appreciate that.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Kelly: Ok. I’ll just say that if we have to pick our favorite, I’m probably going to go with Mia Via because we go there most often. It’s close to us. It’s just really, really good mom & pop style Italian food. The grandmother is in the back making the meatballs and the desserts. And the brothers do the cooking. It’s just a great spot. Still, it’s kind of hard because we have like a million great, local restaurants that we love. I’m just going to continue off the top of my head (laughs). Out in Dallas, we have TC Rileys and The Checkerboard. We love to get sushi from Asaki. And Backwoods has a fabulous deck and kind of an open bar concept that we love. Of course, my daughter and I love to go to Red Leaf for salads.

Dennis: I gotta’ say The Fort Café. Jeff’s a great friend of mine. They have just amazing food. And Anthony’s in Old Forge. They’re fantastic. I’m trying to think of the places that I frequent. There are so many good ones and I can’t think of them all right now. I’ll email you a list (laughs).

*Dennis did indeed send a list via email, and, for the sake of brevity, I will simply say this: if you think that your restaurant might be on Dennis Bonvie’s list of NEPA favorites, it is.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Dennis: Oh… We go to Thai Thai and Istanbul Grill downtown…

Kelly: He’s still on the restaurants (laughs).

Dennis: Ok, ok. What we like to do…. Well, in the summer we like to barbecue. We’ll have a couple people over and hang out on the deck and have a drink. In the winter, which is busy time for me with work, we get together on Sundays and have a big family meal, which is kind of old fashioned, I guess. It’s like what our parents did. There was always a big family meal on Sunday. And Kelly’s a great cook. She’ll always have something on for Sunday dinner. And then we sit back, put our feet up and relax. That’s pretty standard for us.

Kelly: That’s what we love about our neighborhood. If you feel like having the neighbors over for a drink or something to eat, they can just walk right down the street. Being home is a luxury. I say that to my friends all the time. It really is because we’re running around with the kids all the time and Dennis travels a lot for work. So, I guess that is a good point. If and when we’re all lucky enough to be home, we’re spending that time together. We just love being home.

What’s next for you?

Kelly: Our oldest is graduating high school this year. So, in theory, in two years, both our kids are going to be out the door. Outside of that, I see myself continuing at Wilkes – hopefully in an expanded role. Either way, I do love where I’m at with work. Another thing is that people always ask me if I travel with Dennis when he has to go to like Finland or somewhere like that for work, and I’m always like, “Well, you see, we have these three things called two kids and a dog and they’re just not self-sustaining (laughs).” Honestly, though, someone needs to be here to look after them. So, I’ve never been able to jump on a plane with him and go to some of these cool cities. Not that I’d go everywhere, but soon in the future, I do see us being able to do that together.

Dennis: That’s it! Totally! I go on these trips for work and I’d love to get to a point where we can do it together. Our kids recently went away to their senior week at the beach and Kelly and I got to hang out together just the two of us for the first time in like eighteen years. It was great. Just going to dinner and watching movies. I’d love to take her with me on these trips and just check out these different cities together, go to dinner… It would be fun.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

Kelly: I just see it continuing to grow. I really do. I mean, it’s a great place to live. More and more people are recognizing that. I see it continuing to move forward.

Dennis: All it’s got ahead is growth when you think about it. If you look at how far NEPA has come in just a short period of time, you can see the direction it’s heading. Look at all of the companies moving here and all the jobs they’re bringing in. That says a lot about the area. And there’s a lot of talented people here. We have so much room to grow. It reminds me a lot of when the Penguins started here. It’s a prime example. You had hockey all around in Binghamton, Philly, New York, but not here. Then, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took that step, brought in a team and it has paid off for the whole region. That’s the growth we’re talking about.


Dennis: Basically, it comes down to the fact that I can travel for work and leave my family home and I know they’re safe here. We have so many people we can rely on if we need anything. If I’m away and something happens and I can’t get home, I know that we have people in our lives that will step up and help. And that means a lot to me, personally. NEPA is also such an easy place to work from. I’m close to the entire east coast. I don’t always have to hop on a plane to get somewhere for work. And I can be back home that night. Most importantly, though, we love it here. It still feels like a small town, and we love being a part of that.

Kelly: I guess we could put it this way. If we’re not able to live near our families, then this is the next best place for our family to be. I mean, it has been for over twenty years (laughs). We just love it here.