My hero of the month is Shon Boney.
The Boney family were very good friends of my family dating back to the late 1930s when my dad Earl Roberts first met Henry Boney (Shon’s graddad).
My dad lived in La Mesa and frequented the Boney’s store.
In the 1960s, Henry was appointed to fill my dad’s seat on the California Highway Commission when my dad retired from the commission. I still have a great picture of the two of them at Henry’s swearing in ceremony.
In the 1970s I moved to San Francisco for law school, stayed to practice law there until the fall of 1985.
As a result, I lost touch with many of my parents’ friends, including the Boney family.
I did not have the privilege of knowing Shon or watching him become the incredible man he was.
His founding and nurturing of Sprouts and his philanthropic work is nothing short of spectacular, all accomplished with just 52 short years on this earth.
And by all accounts, while doing so Shon was a great dad and family man. Humble yet driven to excellence in every thing he did.
This tribute from the San Diego Union tells his story.
San Diego Union Tribune By Karen Pearlman March 19, 2021
EAST COUNTY – Shon Boney was 5 years old when he told his parents that when he grew up, “I want to be a blimp driver.”
No one in 1973 could have foreseen that the little kid from Mount Helix would be piloting his own planes across the country to help his family grocery business grow into a viable NASDAQ stock market option.
Boney was the grandson of Henry Boney, who in 1943 founded a fruit stand at 70th Street and University Avenue in San Diego, a venture that later grew into family-run markets across the county and eventually went nationwide.
Shon Boney only started working in the grocery business as a means to take to the open sky.
“He had a fascination with flying from a very young age and started saving money as a box boy when he was 14 at our El Cajon store after school and on Saturdays to learn how to fly,” recalled his mother, Penny Boney. “We would take him to Golden State Flying Club at Gillespie Field for lessons. He took every penny he made to use toward flying lessons.”
While he never made a flight as a “blimp driver” for Goodyear or MetLife, for years Boney piloted his own planes across the United States to help that same family grocery business – now called Sprouts Farmers Market – expand. Boney was a part of the family business for more than 30 years, helping take the company public in 2013.
Through the years, Boney would use his flying skills to take people in need – including children with cancer and their families, as well as wounded military veterans – to hospitals around the country so they could get the medical treatment they needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Boney also arranged for a private plane to bring a seriously ill Oregon man to San Diego for prostate cancer treatments.
But on March 8, Boney lost his fight with a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. The East County native, first diagnosed with the aggressive cancer in December 2019, died at his home in the Santaluz community in Rancho Santa Fe, with his wife, Heather, and their three daughters by his side. He was 52.
Besides flying, Boney was a computer whiz who surfed, cycled, snow skied and water-skied. He was a straight-A standout student-athlete at Grossmont High School, lettering in soccer, football and baseball, in which he was an all-CIF pick as an infielder.
“He was our team captain on the baseball team, a super solid and consistent teammate, and a dependable leader from a great family,” said Lance Dickson, a former major league baseball player who runs a mortgage home loan business in Arizona. “I was lucky enough to make varsity as a sophomore when he was a junior. He epitomized humility and confidence like nobody else I knew at that age.”
Boney was born Nov. 9, 1968, to Stan and Penny (King) Boney in La Mesa, graduating in 1986 from Grossmont. He went on to study business and play baseball at Grossmont College and then UCLA, but left school before graduating to become a full-time part of Henry’s Marketplace.
He met – or re-met -his wife, Heather Ryan, on a setup by family and mutual friends at Campland on the Bay in Mission Bay in 1992. The two were acquainted with one another as they were a year apart at Grossmont High, but didn’t run with the same crowds. They married in 1993 and had three daughters, Sydney (now 25), Brooke (23) and Megan (17). The flower girl at the wedding was Shon Boney’s only sibling, his 6-year-old sister, Missy, born 18 years after her brother.
“Even when he was playing baseball at UCLA, he always made time for me,” Missy Benker said. “He really was one of the most humble human beings you could ever come across. He had a lot but he didn’t act like a person who did. He was always so generous and kind, not just with his family but with everybody.”
In 2002, after Henry’s was sold, Boney and his father took the family grocery store chain and formed Sprouts Farmers Market. Shon Boney moved to Arizona, and grew Sprouts from one store in Chandler, Ariz., into one of the leading natural grocery store chains in the country with 362 stores in 19 states.
Boney served as Sprouts CFO from 2002-05, its CEO from 2005-12 and board chairman from 2012-13. He remained on the board of directors until he retired in June 2019.
“The company only grew because he could fly to three states in one day,” Penny Boney said of her son’s trips with her husband Stan and their partners Kevin Easler and Scott Wing. “When they wanted to go public, they had to show that the business had legs and that they could build a network.”
The grocery business was his occupation, but his wife, Heather, said his true passions were his family and flying. One of her fondest memories is when those two passions combined. For their 25th wedding anniversary in 2018, Boney flew the entire family to Canada, where the two had honeymooned.
“Being able to take the kids was the icing on the cake,” Heather Boney said. “We went to Banff, Lake Louise and all these places. We had a blast going down memory lane. We even stayed at the same hotel we had been for our honeymoon. It was so memorable. It is adventures like that that we treasured.”
Boney is survived by his wife of 28 years, Heather, and their three daughters, Sydney, Brooke and Megan; his sister Missy (Boney) Benker; and his parents, Stan and Penny Boney.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on April 17 at Secret Hills Ranch in Alpine.
Heather Boney said she is in the process of setting up a foundation for helping find a cure for glioblastoma, tentatively called Shon Strong. Until that is running, the family requests donations honoring Boney be made to: challengecenter.org, veteransairlift.org or angelflightwest.org
Postscript: Until I read this article I never knew that Shon was a dedicated volunteer pilot for Veterans Airlift Command (see Hero of the Month January 2014) Julie and I have been proud supporters of VAC for many years as part of a multi-year commitment. I called Jen Salvati at VAC to confirm she and Walt had received the news of Shon’s passing. After choking up for a moment Jen said: “Shon was one of the best people we know and that is saying something because we have a lot of great volunteer pilots at VAC.” Julie and I decided to add to our annual giving to VAC by making an additional contribution of $10,000 in Shon’s honor after reading of his life and his passing.
Shon, I only wish I had known you while you were here with us. Jim