Staff member Tim Sonnenburg, volunteer coordinator with Passages Adult Resource Center, passed away February 19, 2020. He was 66.
Born September 12, 1953, in Los Angeles, he graduated from La Puente High School in 1971 and moved to Butte County 10 years later. His first career was as a motorcycle mechanic and service manager. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in human services in 2007, he began working as the volunteer coordinator at Passages.
His supervisor Ronda Kramer, director of the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, and many other colleagues described Sonnenburg as “irreplaceable,” remarking on his uplifting spirit and sharp wit. In their many years working together at Passages, Nancy Taylor said Sonnenburg was never too busy to offer help when it was needed. That compassion carried over into his work with senior citizens, who were always treated with kindness.
“He treated each of us like we were special,” she said. “Everyone that walked into Passages was treated with great respect by Tim.”
Margie Keyawa-Boyd knew Sonnenburg for more than 15 years, starting back to when they took classes at the University of Phoenix to earn their bachelor’s degrees while working full time. Every Monday for three years, they shared an evening class and partnered often on class assignments, and she keenly recalls how thorough, reliable, and dedicated he was. They were coworkers at Passages for six years until she took a job on the University’s main campus.
“He was always very soft-spoken. When he did speak, it was very few words but very meaningful and genuine,” she said. “Tim had the biggest, kindest, and soft heart of any man I knew. His comforting words helped me through a lot of tough times. He always knew what to say and how to say it.”
Arlyn Beneke echoed a similar sentiment, saying that Sonneburg’s kindness and gentle soul made him a special person both in his work and his personal life.
“Everyone who knew him loved him, and his diligence and devotion to helping others with singular purpose and without judgment will forever serve as an inspiration to us all,” she said.
Away from the office, Sonnenburg deeply valued friends and family, enjoyed traveling and kayaking, and delighted in spending time with his grandson, whether swimming, playing on trampolines, or trips to Disneyland.
He is survived by his wife, Susan; daughter April; grandson Paulie; stepdaughters Leslie and Shannon; stepgrandchildren Jordyn, Kyle, Skyler, Jayden, and Lilah; niece Deanna; and nephews Tom and Tim. A celebration of life will be held March 21 at 2 p.m. at the Chico Center for Spiritual Living, 14 Hillary Lane. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Passages or Yuba-Sutter Agents of Change.
The University flag will be lowered Tuesday, March 10, in his honor.