A team in love and business

COOS BAY — "OK, honey, here's the latest scoop."

Joyce Bonk strolled out of her office and into her bay-view living room. She had her husband's attention.

"I don't think she'll run with the kid."

It was long-awaited good news for the private investigators' pending case. The Bonks had lost sleep the night before.

Bonk and Bonk lose sleep over many of their cases, whether routine child custody or a cold-case murder trial.

"You have to know every piece of a case, every element," Joyce Bonk said. 'You're working with it 24 hours a day, you're sleeping with it."

Sometimes the answer to a case comes to her in the middle of the night, she said. Fortunately, her partner in investigations is also her partner in life.

"I'll say, 'Robert, wake up, I thought of something.' He'll say, 'Can't it wait until six when we're having coffee?' And I'll say, 'No,'" Joyce Bonk said.

Joyce and Robert Bonk conduct investigations for local lawyers out of their home on Cape Arago Highway, highly visible to motorists with its metal gate and 'Bonk & Bonk Investigations" sign near the road.

Robert Bonk picked the name.

"Bob said, 'You're Bonk and I'm Bonk,'" Joyce Bonk said.

Robert Bonk nodded and chuckled.

"Well, you go by attorneys' offices and they have all those names to impress people, so I thought why can't we do that?" Robert Bonk said.

In the legal system, a private investigator does the same job for defense lawyers that police do for the district attorney. The Bonks performed that role in the recent trial of Nick McGuffin, convicted of manslaughter in the 2000 death of Leah Freeman in Coquille.

Joyce and Robert Bonk became private investigators in 1992, shortly after moving to Coos County. Both are retired from other careers in California.

Joyce Bonk has worked for a school district and a police department and even owned a feed and seed store. That's where she met Robert Bonk in 1986. He was a retired firefighter from Los Angeles and longtime commercial fisherman.

He didn't think she knew her grass seed. So after a late-night dinner on a California beach, he started to help her run the store.

They married in 1988, bought a motor home in 1992 and started traveling up the Pacific Coast. They got as far Charleston when they saw a for-sale sign on a bay-view lot with a small, run-down house.

"He said, 'You know what? I can do something with this place,' " Joyce Bonk said.

The Bonks moved their motor home onto the property, and Robert Bonk started building a house.

"Joyce said, 'If I earn the money, can you build it?' I said, 'Sure,'" Robert Bonk said.

Concern about previous drug dealing on their new property prompted a wrought-iron fence and gate. While they were putting up the fence, a local lawyer stopped by. He asked some strange questions about how the Bonks would handle various situations — then asked them to do a job for him.

Almost 20 years later, the Bonks handle between one and five cases at a time. Robert Bonk is 78 years old. His wife isn't saying.

Joyce Bonk takes the lead on the investigations — Robert Bonk is just now learning to type. But she is quick to point out that her husband sees things that she doesn't.

While investigating an alleged stabbing, the Bonks went to the crime scene together. Robert Bonk noticed immediately that the homeowners had decorated the ground with oyster shells.

"He said, 'I can tell you what happened here,'" Joyce Bonk said. During a tussle the victim fell into the oyster shells, which cut him up. Not a knife.

Bonk and Bonk don't always charge for their services, if a deserving client runs out of money. One man paid by building a deck rail.

"If we charged for everything we do, no one would be able to afford us," Joyce Bonk said with a laugh.

Gifts from grateful clients are scattered around their house. A wooden sculpture on the wall, a vase in the corner, a candle on the table. Kathy McGuffin made the candle as a thank-you for the Bonks' many sleepless nights during her son's case.

Along with working together, the Bonks say they enjoy married life. Both were married before, and both lost children.

Robert Bonk fishes and tends the vegetables in his greenhouse. His wife gravitates toward animals. Before she met Robert, she had an exotic animal farm in California. For a while, she kept a pair of emus.

"They were her emus, and they had to be fed two times a day, rain or shine," Robert Bonk said. "And no matter how hard it was raining, she'd say, 'Bob, go feed the emus.'"

They both laughed.

"We sure have had a lot of fun being married to each other," Robert Bonk said. 'We really have."

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