The women’s basketball world took a big hit on Monday with the death of longtime referee Bonita Spence. Spence worked in both the college and WNBA ranks and was one of the better officials in the game. She was also one of the most notable personalities among referees.
Spence used to officiate numerous UConn games at both Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center in Hartford. Each time, she was received with a drawn out cry of “Boooooniiiiiiitaaaa!!” from the student section, to which she always responded with a smile.
She was also one of the few officials willing to joke with students in the crowd, and would often laugh along as fans made teasing comments about calls during timeouts. For that, she was always appreciated.
Spence was happy to keep things light-hearted outside of Connecticut as well.
During this year’s Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, she participated in a dance competition at halftime alongside several fans from the crowd.
Yes, as much as a crowd could put a smile on her face, she could have the same effect for them — after hearing of her death, many took to Twitter to express their sadness:
#NCAAW Sad to hear of passing of referee Bonita Spence. Always had great conversations and thinking of her the word integrity comes quickly.
— Mel Greenberg (@womhoopsguru) September 16, 2013
Sad to hear about passing of Bonita Spence — veteran WBB referee. When she officiated, you knew who was in charge. #ripbonita
— Ed Cohen (@edcohensports) September 16, 2013
I was on press row last year at the Big East Tournament. She walked by during a timeout so I whispered “Boooniiitaaa!” Huge smile after that
— Tim Fontenault (@Tim_Fontenault) September 16, 2013
rest easy Bonita Spence. gonna miss her sass and the uconn student section screaming her name senselessly. sad day.
— Christopher (@chrambrose) September 16, 2013
Sad to hear the passing of Bonita Spence. One of my all time favorite officials. Thoughts and prayers to her family #wvu
— Mike Carey (@CoachMikeCarey) September 16, 2013
Hearing of the passing of Bonita Spence really breaks my heart! I just saw her last month at the Beyonce’ concert. Prayers to her family.
— Kelsey Bone (@kelseybone3) September 16, 2013
Bonita, you’ll be missed.