Dr. Charles A. Bonsett

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Born in Indianapolis, IN on March 22, 1921

Departed on March 12, 2020 and resided in Indianapolis, IN

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Dr. Charles A. Bonsett, noted neurologist, medical researcher, and medical historian, passed away at the age 98 after a brief illness just shy of his 99th birthday.  A lifelong residence of Indianapolis, growing up on the eastside, he attended School 62 and was a 1939 graduate of Arsenal Technical High School.  After high school he worked at West Bakery before completing one year at Butler University.  His education was then interrupted by Army service in WW2.  He served in the Pacific theater in the capacity of field communications, drawing on radio electronic skills acquired while in high school.   He was stationed at New Guinea, Biak, Luzon in the Philippines, Okinawa, and finally at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan as part of the initial U.S. occupation forces at the conclusion of the war.  The war had a profound impact on Dr. Bonsett, he met his future wife Olga while stationed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and his wartime experiences led him to choose medicine as a career. 


Returning home at the conclusion of the war he married Olga and resumed his studies at Butler University. He was then admitted to the Indiana University School of Medicine - graduating in 1952. After completing his internship at Methodist Hospital he did a residency in Neurology at Indiana University, where he later became a clinical professor of neurology.  At the completion of his residency in 1956 he joined the staff of the newly opened Community Hospital on the eastside of Indianapolis, as well as serving on the staff of St. Francis Hospital.


In addition to his medical practice, he directed the Muscular Dystrophy Clinic at Indiana University for 30 years.   Dr. Bonsett undertook a primarily locally funded research program to find a treatment for muscular dystrophy that spanned over more than three decades.  This research led to FDA approved clinical trials of a treatment that, although demonstrating promising results, only recently has generated follow-on research at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.  He also served as an expert medical witness for the Social Security Administration.


His keen interest in medical history led to his championing the preservation of the Old Pathology Building on the Central State Hospital campus.  This building was both the site of part of his medical education and later the venue for his muscular dystrophy research laboratory.  The Old Pathology Building now houses the Indiana Medical History Museum, which he helped to establish.

He was a prolific writer on Indiana medical history, contributing a long-running monthly column for publications of the Indiana State Medical Association as well as authoring entries for the “The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.”  Dr. Bonsett had also served as a trustee of the Indiana Historical Society.  


Dr. Bonsett was predeceased by his wife Olga, who was his lifelong companion and constant supporter in all of his activities.  His was also predeceased by his brother John Bonsett (Lula), and his parents John and Edith Bonsett.  He is survived by his son Tom, his niece Nancy Collier (Lee), and his nephews John Bonsett (Beverly) and Don Bonsett (Dotty).  He will be keenly missed by his family (to whom he was Uncle “B”), his friends and colleagues (to whom he was “Charlie”), and the many patients whose lives he touched.


A visitation will be held on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 from 10 am to 12 noon at Flanner Buchanan – Washington Park East.  There will be a service immediately following at 12 noon, also at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Indiana Medical History Museum, which is located at 3045 West Vermont Street, Indianapolis IN 46222.

Contributions may be made on-line at: www.imhm.org

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Guestbook Entries

  1. Bruce W. Buchanan March 14, 2020 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    There are few things more difficult than dealing with the loss of a loved one. I am honored that you have chosen our family to care for your family during this time. Please let me know if there is more we can do to help celebrate your loved-one’s life.

    My Warmest Regards,

    Bruce W. Buchanan
    4th Generation Owner
    Since 1881

  2. Bernard Bonset & family March 15, 2020 at 6:53 am - Reply

    Candle 2In stillem Gedenken

    • Sheryl Stair March 16, 2020 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      Sending thoughts and prayers to the Bonnsett family.

  3. Bernard Bonset und Familie March 15, 2020 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Candle 2In stillem Gedenken

  4. Joseph Buttgen March 15, 2020 at 9:40 am - Reply

    We will always remember Uncle B, and holidays spent with family, God Bless.
    Joe Buttgen and family..

  5. Linda Mesalam Carroll March 15, 2020 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Tom ~ so sorry to read of the loss of your father. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. Kevin Green March 15, 2020 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Inspiration beyond measure across the decades I was privileged to know Dr Charles Bonsett. So blessed in manifold ways in time spent in service to the family, friendship, and advocacy for his horizon-exceeding research.

  7. Jo Jones March 15, 2020 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Candle 4Dr. Bonsett treated all my brothers & sisters for several years. Our family greatly appreciated his knowledge, wisdom & caring heart. He touched so many over the years that I wanted his family to know he was truly a great man as well as an amazing doctor.

  8. Thomas Ferrara March 15, 2020 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    He was the Neurologist at CHE when I began there in 1971.

  9. Diane Sommerville Ruble March 15, 2020 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Tom, so sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. Prayer to you and tour family.

  10. Dr Emma Rybalka March 16, 2020 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Candle 1Dear Tom and the extended Bonsett family,

    We are saddened to hear of the passing of Charles, a dedicated neurologist and medical researcher. It has been our honour and privilege to work with Charles over the past 10 years in effort of re-establishing clinical trials for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy with adenylosuccinic acid. We hope that we can “carry his torch” to eventually get an effective medicine back to the children who need it. He will forever remain an inspiration in our thoughts, prayers and future work. Our deepest condolences to Tom and family.


    Dr Emma Rybalka, Dr Cara Timpani and Professor Alan Hayes
    Victoria University & Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

  11. Sheryl Stair March 16, 2020 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Candle 1Sending thoughts and prayers to the Bonsett family.

  12. Norma Collins March 18, 2020 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Candle 2Dr. Bonsett’s family. I loved Dr. Bonsett. He cared for my two sons (at Community Hosp., East) beginning in 1997 when they were diagnosed with Duchenes Muscular Dystrophy. He was such a compassionate, caring and attentive man. I have since thought of him many times, wondered how he was doing and if he were still living. I will never forget him. My son’s passed away, my youngest at age 18 and the oldest actually lived to the age of 34I would have been there and shown my respects, today, however, I am also now confined to a wheelchair and the friend that would have brought me, is ill.
    My condolences to your family. May God give you comfort through this difficult time. Heaven has gained a remarkable man

  13. Sheena Johnsonb March 18, 2020 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    Dr. Bonsett was one of the best. He became my Dr. in the early 70’s for epilepsy. He was so kind and caring, I was having problems once and he called while on a visit to Chicago with his brother just to ask about me that’s the kind of man he was. He always called me little girl, on my last visit to him he called me that and I replied Dr.Bonsett I’m now a grandmother, he said you’ll always be a little girl to me. I sent him birthday cards and was looking forward to sending one for his 100th.
    My condolences to the family.

  14. Janey Baskett Bennett March 19, 2020 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Tom I don’t know if you remember me but I grew up down the street on Hedgerow drive. I remember meeting your Dad on several occasions and then I went to work at Community Hospital in mid 80’s and he was a neurologist at same hospital. He was very well respected. Take care and condolences to you and your family

  15. Dan Thompsom April 3, 2020 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Candle 1Quite a full life. I only met him a couple of times, but a friend of his son. May he rest in peace and may his lite burn brightly for the future.

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