Roy Leon Bonario Sr. slipped peacefully into the arms of God in the company of family and friends, on February 11, 2023. He was born November 10, 1934, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston, a proud second-generation Italian American and eldest son of Lee and Tena Bonario. His grandparents were Sicilian immigrants who raised large families and made their living farming strawberries at the turn of the century in Dickinson, Texas.
Roy is preceded in death by his wife, Billie Frances Allen Bonario and grandchild, Serenity Michelle Sorrell, Roy is survived by his sister, Minnie Marie Walker and brother John Bonario and his wife Barbara. Four children: Donna Rose and Robert Viramontes, Deborah Ann Bonario and Buddy Martin, Roy Leon Jr. and Denise Bonario, Cynthia Leigh and Kenneth Barnfield. “Pawpaw” had ten living grandchildren: Anna and Vince Chuter Jr., Daniel Viramontes and Shallon McClure, Michael Martin, Thomas Martin, Brady and Sandrah Bonario, Sarah and Will Stroud, Sean Bonario and Dani Ruiz, Elizabeth and John Williams, Cody Bonario, Ryan Barnfield and Heidi Corona. “Great Grand Pawpaw” had nine great grandchildren: Keegan Miller, Edward Chuter, Liliana and Juliah Bonario, Noah, Wyatt and Ryleigh Stroud, Zachary Duff-Martin and Ezra Bonario-Ruiz.
He loved sharing stories of humble beginnings in Houston’s East End, living above the family’s grocery store, gathering around the radio at night and meeting up with cousins for a matinee at the local movie theater. He spent a paper boy’s wages on what would become a lifelong love of comics, attracting a sizable gathering of close friends and acquaintances from an early age that lasted a lifetime. Attending Catholic school, he graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1953 and served as a reservist in the United States Army. In 1955 he fell madly in love with Billie Frances Allen at the Buccaneer Drive-In (where the “cool kids” hung out) and they married on September 11, 1959.
In the 1960’s era of “mom and pop” retail, Roy and Fran bought Harmony Hut in South Houston, making many friends over the years in the music business. With friends and fellow collaborators in 1971, he opened Houston’s first comic book, record and movie poster store near the Rice Village at 2312 Bissonnet. He changed locations along the way, moving the store to Southwest Freeway at Shepherd, LaBranch, Westbury Square and finally South Braeswood. “Roy’s Memory Shop” enjoyed a long-running reputation as a welcoming place for all, where the undisputed godfather of comics ran films on Saturdays, while debating the finer points of film noir at the register.
A series of happenings and events led Roy and other pioneers to establish the HCCA (Houston Comic Collectors Association), launching Houston’s first comic convention (Houston Con) and the publishing of “Saturday’s World” fanzine. Roy’s expertise was unparalleled, built on shared and lived experiences. His gift of gab, combined with an extensive knowledge base and command of facts, continues to influence generations of collectors and enthusiasts today. After retiring from the Braeswood location in the mid-90s, Roy worked from home, wheeling and dealing at conventions and opening a flourishing eBay store.
Roy was a devout Catholic and lifelong member of Annunciation Church. He would lovingly advise his grandchildren on the finer points of salvation, cautioning against temptation of sin and never shying away from the subject of his own redemption. A devoted brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, cousin and friend, he never met a stranger and never tired of talking about his treasured childhood days. Roy will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by his family and a multitude of friends. Special thanks to Mark Barnfield, his roommate, dear friend and constant companion at Cypress Creek Rehabilitation Center.
A visitation and celebration to honor Roy’s life will take place Thursday, February 23, 2023, from 7-9:30pm at Odin Hall (KC Council #2917), 607 E. Whitney St, Houston, 77022. On Friday, February 24th, a rosary will be recited at 10:30am at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, 11011 Hall Rd, Houston, 77089. The funeral Mass will follow at 11:00am, with burial to follow at Forest Park Lawndale, 6900 Lawndale St, Houston, at 1:00pm. Mass and graveside services will be presided by Rev. Douglas J. Guthrie.
LIVESTREAM UPDATE: The funeral Mass will be livestreamed starting approximately 5-10 minutes before the service begins at 11am. If you have a Facebook account, it can be viewed on Roy’s Facebook page. If you do not have a Facebook account or have trouble locating his page, the link below will go live at the time of the funeral
You are free to share the link once the livestream begins. The service will be recorded, so if you miss it, please contact Donna afterwards at 713-699-8119.