Shirley Bonnem, 86, a former vice president at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a pioneer in hospital public relations, died of a stroke Thursday, May 2, at her Center City home.

Calling her "a preeminent communicator and goodwill ambassador," the medical institution announced her passing "with great sadness."

During a 34-year career at the hospital, Ms. Bonnem specialized in public relations and marketing, development, and government relations.

After retiring in 2000, she served as a public relations consultant to numerous hospitals, and continued her longtime work as a volunteer on the boards of medical institutions, civic groups, and nonprofits.

In addition to writing dozens of articles and book chapters on public relations, Ms. Bonnem wrote two commemorative books about Children's.

In one, covering the two decades ending in 1994, she told what it took to move patients from the hospital's old building at 18th and Bainbridge Streets to the new site at 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard.

It was a Sunday morning, she wrote. A line of ambulances filled with critically ill children, accompanied by nurses and physicians, wound for two miles through the city streets.

"The rain poured in torrents; the wind raged," wrote Ms. Bonnem. "Huge yellow and white striped umbrellas, hastily brought down to the old building from the new hospital, protected the children.

"Two staff members sat on the roofs of the old and new buildings in the driving rain, each with a two-way radio." All arrived safely.

Ms. Bonnem was born in 1927 to Ruby and Philip Rosenblum. He was a urologist. The family lived in the Fern Rock section.

She graduated from Olney High School and Temple University, and taught school before working in public relations at the Federation of Jewish Charities.

She married businessman Alan Bonnem in 1962, and four years later was hired by Children's in public relations. For much of her tenure, Ms. Bonnem worked with C. Everett Koop, then surgeon in chief. She helped publicize his pediatric surgeries, such as separating conjoined twins when the surgery was groundbreaking.

She received honors including the Pinnacle Award of the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania Public Relations and Marketing Society, the first lifetime achievement award from the Health Care Academy of the Public Relations Association of America, and the national Headliner award from Women in Communications.

In 1984, she was elected to the Hall of Fame of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, and in 1996 became a member of the state honor roll of women.

Ms. Bonnem told her family she was proudest of the fact that in 1996, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia elected her the first nonphysician to become a fellow. She served on the college's board of trustees.

Her husband died in 1995. Surviving are sons Eric and Stephen; a sister; a grandson; two nephews, and a niece.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Friday, May 10, at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22d St., Philadelphia 19103. Interment is private.

Donations may be made to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation, 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia 19104, or to the College of Physicians.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.