Scholarship funds sought in memory of slain nurse

by Len Lear
Posted 8/24/23

Her sister is raising funds for the Leidy Sheeder Bonanno Memorial Fund for the Reading Hospital School of Nursing, which was created by Leidy's parents 20 years ago.

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Scholarship funds sought in memory of slain nurse


July 21 of this year would have been the 42nd birthday of Leidy Sheeder Bonanno, who graduated from Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill and Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote and then went to the Reading Hospital School of Nursing to pursue her dream of being of service as a medical professional.

 It was also the 20th anniversary of her murder.

Leidy (pronounced “Lady”) was 21 years old and had just graduated from nursing school when she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2003 who came into her apartment using a copy of Leidy's key, strangled her with her telephone cord and left her with a pillow over her face. Leidy's mother, Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, and her husband, David, told the Local at the time that after phoning Leidy for a few days and not getting an answer, they became very alarmed, called the police, went up to West Reading and found out that their daughter had been murdered.

The ex-boyfriend, Joseph Eaddy, had been stalking Leidy after a recent breakup and was convicted of the crime. He is currently serving a life sentence without parole at a prison in northeastern Pennsylvania. Kathleen, a poet, a teacher at Cheltenham High School and a contributing editor to The American Poetry Review, died in 2017 of cancer. Six months later, her husband David, managing editor of The American Poetry Review, also died from complications after a medical procedure.

And now Kathleen’s sister, Suzanne Sheeder, is trying to raise funds for the Leidy Sheeder Bonanno Memorial Fund for the Reading Hospital School of Nursing, which was created by Leidy's parents 20 years ago.

“It’s still hard to fathom that Leidy is not physically with us, but her undeniable brilliant spirit surely is,” said Sheeder, who lived in Mt. Airy for 15 years but now lives in Wyncote with her husband, Joe Borrelli, owner of Borrelli's Chestnut Hill (Art) Gallery. “We are reaching out to ask for support in replenishing this unique scholarship. It was set up to specifically award ‘students who have demonstrated perseverance in overcoming academic and/or personal issues to pursue their education and who may have financial need.’”

In 1987, David and Kathleen had adopted two siblings — Leidy, nicknamed Ladybug, then 4, and Luis, then 3 — both of whom had been abandoned by their birth parents in their native Chile. Luis attended the Center School in Abington and then Springfield Township High School. He later became a roofer.

Kathleen, who lived in Mt. Airy for 25 years, handled the 2003 tragedy with Job-like patience and wisdom. In 2008, Kathleen wrote “Slamming Open the Door,” a collection of poems she wrote to cope with Leidy's murder. The book was the 2008 Beatrice Hawley Award winner and the 9th best-selling poetry book in 2009. It received a full-page rave review in The New York Times. The first poem in the book, "Death Barged In," was selected by the Academy of American Poets as their "poem for the day" on April 15, 2009. She also won the Purple Ribbon Award from the Lutheran Settlement Home for her advocacy on behalf of the victims of domestic violence.

In 2011, Bonnano received a Knights Foundation Grant (selected from 1700 submissions) to create a literary arts center in Chestnut Hill called Musehouse: a Center for the Literary Arts. It opened at 7924 Germantown Ave. in September 2011 but closed in 2016 when Kathleen's health made it impossible for her to continue. 

So far more than 50 students have received scholarship aid from Leidy’s memorial fund.

This year’s recipient, Haylee Selesky, recently said, “I was never the type of student I thought would receive a scholarship, but if I had to choose, I am so grateful it was this one. Finishing nursing school has been a struggle for me, especially this past year. I can't help but believe that Leidy has played a role in my success these past two semesters.”

According to Sheeder, “The stories we have heard from Haylee and the other scholarship recipients over the past 20 years are a testament to the quality of Reading Hospital’s nursing program as well as the students they’ve enrolled. These students are spirited, kind and determined women, just like our Ladybug.”

For more information or to make a donation to the scholarship fund, contact Stacey Cole at 484-628-8666 or or Suzanne Sheeder at Len Lear can be reached at