Last week I attended funeral services for Mr. James Bond. Obviously, I am not speaking of the fictional 007 of the British MI6 from the books by Ian Fleming and the various movies featuring Sean Connery, among others.
The services were for the father of a high school buddy of mine, also named James Bond, who made his debut in this world before the film version of Dr. No was released. After my friend Jim (whom we now most often refer to as J.B.) came seven more Bond children—five boys and three girls in total.
To fully appreciate this story, attend as I cover salient points that began while enrolled at/sentenced to an all-boys high school run by Capuchin Franciscan Friars, the ones in the brown robes and white rope belts.
I entered St. Francis with my good friend Dr. D, whom I've mentioned previously here in B/R. The years there taught me many things, some of scholastic value and others more along the lines of valuable life lessons. Key among the latter was the value of true friendship.
By the time graduation rolled around, six of us had formed an fellowship that continues to this day. In addition to being all the first born children to each of our respective families, we were were all of different ethnic backgrounds and shades of skin tone—and all hardcore sports fans to boot. As a curious aside, the only team we all would agree on—in positive terms, that is—would be the Los Angeles Lakers.
We made an interesting sight at pizza parlors and pool halls, most not knowing what to make of this hodgepodge of adolescent males and deciding to leave us to our own devices. The rare times one of us would be unduly harassed, the sight of the others riding in like the cavalry resulted in stunned looks and mumbled apologies about some sort of misunderstanding.
We spent a great deal of time in each other's homes and the various sets of parents got to know all of us well. In short order, it was as if we all had multiple sets of parents instead of just one, and respect was given to each set as matter of course.
Coming from varied backgrounds, the different parents were able to give us many points of view on living life and would bring multiple skills for us to appreciate.
The five surviving members—we lost Frank a few years after graduation, due to a one-third the normal lung capacity from a birth defect finally claiming his life—remain close to this day. A couple of months can pass with little or no contact, then we pick right back up not missing a beat. Our wives are amazed and maybe a touch bit jealous at the strength of our friendship.
We were all present for the services. When paying my respects to the second oldest brother, Richard, he thanked me for attending. I told him I had no choice; it was mandatory. He was taken aback for a second, then slowly smiled, understanding the complement born from respect.
Mr. James Richard Bond was a gregarious fellow who loved life. If you didn't like Mr. Bond, be assured the problem was with you, not him. He sold insurance door-to-door, was quite successful at it, and loved to say with a smile, "James Bond, at your service."
To provide for such a large family, he had to be quite the salesman, but the accumulation of wealth was not his motivation. Being a positive role model and an asset to his community were far more important.
He was also a dedicated Little League father, and for a generation he must have instructed half the children of Alhambra in the basics of baseball, football, and basketball. You better believe fair play and respect were among those basics, as well.
Mr. Bond loved to sing, particularly in the church choir. On some occasions, he was the choir. He loved to laugh and was ready with a humorous story for any event.
He was Irish, a devoted Catholic, and loved sports—which meant his favorite team had to be Notre Dame. Football Saturdays were looked forward to, going back to the days when most of the time the game was only on the radio. Victories were not to be overblown, nor losses to be agonized over. You could say he was a sporting gentleman, though that doesn't mean the occasional barb wouldn't be tossed, either.
Mr. Bond also loved games of chance and it's shining neon capital of Las Vegas. Among the life lessons he taught us was the intricacies of betting football parlay cards. Mind you, it was not as if he corrupted our morals, since we had already been playing poker together for a while and none have devolved into degenerate gamblers in the decades since.
His Notre Dame cap, baseball mitt, and a framed parlay card were among the presented gifts brought up to the altar at the services. Along with a DVD set of the 007 movies.
When ready to travel to Vegas, he would proclaim he was going to the promised land. The promise delivered most often was of a large buffet for a couple of bucks and the opportunity to win on the next visit. That did not matter, as the excitement of the action, both sporting and gambling, was so enjoyable for him.
Of course, not all trips were of the negative cash flow variety, as evidenced in the photo accompanying this article. As one of his sons told during the services, a high point in Mr. Bond's later years was when he was able to purchase a condo in Las Vegas to use as a second residence. While rated at the casinos, it was nice for him to know he was able to sleep in his own bed while in Vegas.
Mr. James Bond lived a full life and was devoted to his wife, Allyne, with whom he is now reunited. Eight children carry on his strongest beliefs in devotion to God and service of your neighbors. Thirteen grandchildren have wonderful memories of their grandfather and, maybe by chance or even by design, just before his services began his first great-grandchild was born.
The world is a better place for Mr. Bond having been in it, and the rippling effect his life has had on those he touched leaves us grateful for the privilege to have known him and his family.