The couple moved to Milwaukee in 1964 after giving birth to her fourth child. She finished her education at Milwaukee Area Technical College, receiving a degree as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Now with six children—Anthony Toney, Lorenzo Toney, Kevin Nathaniel, George Nathaniel III, Martha Ann Nathaniel, and Joyce Lynette Nathaniel—Gracie Lee knew her husband, who worked as an auto mechanic, would need help supporting the family.
While working at Hill View Nursing Home on 22nd and Lapham, Gracie saw an advertisement that the manufacturing company W. A. Krueger was hiring.
Knowing the $1.20 an hour at a nursing home was not enough to help support the family, she decided to apply for the job at W.A. Krueger, which was paying $1.93 an hour.
By taking the factory job at W.A. Krueger, Gracie was giving up her childhood dream of being a nurse to secure the welfare of her children.
Twenty-eight years latter, Gracie retired from W.A. Krueger. The factory job was a lot harder than working at a nursing home. At Krueger, Gracie worked eight to 16 hour days standing on her feet, feeding pockets to a machine that made magazines
It was tiring and painful work. Sometimes Gracie would come home crying because the work was so hard at the factory. But then she would realize that she had given up her dream to help make her children’s dreams come true. This gave her the strength to go another day.
Despite the difficulties of the job, Gracie never complained about what she didn’t have for herself. She took pride and joy in giving her children food to eat, clothing on their backs and a roof over their heads.
Because she put all the earnings she made towards her childrens’ needs, Gracie often didn’t have 10 cents for a cup of coffee. When co-workers asked her to join them for coffee, she would decline, saying the coffee made her stomach hurt. She was embarrassed to admit that she didn’t have 10 cents after working 16 hours a day for six or seven days a week.
One day her youngest child Joyce—who was soon to turn 18—asked her mother if she could get her a job at W.A. Krueger. Gracie agreed. After all, she had gotten jobs for three of her children, Anthony, Lorenzo and Kevin.
But after being hired by the company and working only half of the hours at a position that was not as difficult as her mother’s, Joyce complained to her mother, asking her how she could do such hard work for so long? Gracie replied, “Your mother has to do what she has to do to take good care of all six of you, plus rise my sister.”
Joyce said, “Momma, I’m going to college because I can’t work this hard for the rest of my life.” So Joyce went to Cardinal Stritch College where she earned a Masters Degree in business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resources.
Lorenzo is now making $30 per hour at a Printing Company in Milwaukee due to his mothers example of hard work. Son Anthony is the owner of his own moving business with his wife Kathy called T & K Moving. Their two sons, Khalid and Shaka, are working for the couple full time.
Kevin has raised four children with his youngest girl, Kelvonna holding a 4.2 grade point average at Messmer High School. She is also working as an intern in Mayor Tom Barrett’s office in preparation for law school.
George III is a full-time preacher and ministers to students in school through his Students of Destiny Ministry in Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Ohio and has raised four children. One of those children, George IV, is playing semi-pro football.
George III’s youngest child is a war hero, having served 18 months in Iraq. He was shot twice in the chest but survived because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
George’s son also survived four roadside bombings and a missile that flew passed his head by inches while in Iraq. He credit’s his survival to the grace of God who heard his prayers and the prayers of his fellow soldiers.
Gracie’s daughter Martha raised two children and is now a proud grandmother. Gracie’s sister Tiny also successfully raised two children.
One day, while driving to work in the snow, her car spent around on the expressway and was facing oncoming traffic. By God’s grace she was not hit.
One day, a co-worker asked Gracie how she managed to work so hard everyday doing the type of work she did. Gracie said, “It’s by the power of God. He gives us (she and her husband George) the strength; and the love for our children gives us the drive.
Some of the happiest moments of Gracie’s life was seeing her children’s faces light up with joy as they received the gifts they asked for at Christmas time.
The saddest moment was when the doctors told her that her husband George had only six weeks to live due to cancer and there was nothing they could do. He passed away exactly six weeks later.
Her greatest prayer was that her husband would not have to suffer a long time with the disease.
Her life and death experience was when she was giving birth to her fourth son, George the III, the preacher.
The doctor was loosing her. During this experience, Gracie had left her body and was looking down at the doctors and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let them lose me.” It was then that her spirit went back into her body and her fourth child, George III, was born.
Her miracle experience was when she and her husband were engaged in a horrific fight with knives. “Someone was going to die this time,” she thought.
But her son, the preacher said, “I’m going to go and pray for you two.” The next morning she said to her son, “did you feel that earthquake?” Her son George said, “what earthquake?” She said, “last night, when we were fighting, we felt the house shake so bad that we got scared and threw the knives down and put our heads under the cover and went to sleep.”
Not once did Gracie’s children go without food. Not once did the lights or phone get cut off.
Not once did she and her husband miss a birthday present for their six children, plus her sister. Not one child went to jail because Gracie truly disciplined them at home.
Not once did she miss a parent/teacher conference or was unable to take her children to the hospital when they were sick or broke a foot.
Gracie has earned the “Love your Neighbor” Award for being the “friendliest neighbor on her block.” She has owned a four unit Apartment Building, a Day Care center, called “In God’s Grace Day Care.” Gracie is now working with toddlers at a day care center as a senior citizen and again doing some Home Healthcare for her brother at home.
This is a tribute to Mrs. Gracie Lee Nathaniel-Bonner. We give these flowers to her while she is living. The Bible says, “Give Honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans: Chapter 13) and Mrs. Gracie Lee Nathaniel Bonner is due much honor.
George Nathaniel III