ST. PETERSBURG — To most people, it was nearly impossible to tell Bill Bond from his twin brother Sam. For most of their lives, they worked together at a string of family-owned hotels in downtown St. Petersburg.
In their younger years, they enjoyed relieving each other as desk clerks. Guests couldn't fathom how that pleasant young clerk could work round the clock for days on end and stay so chipper.
They both went to Cornell University and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, then returned to the hotel business. At one time, the family ran at least nine hotels, including the Pennsylvania, the Colonial and two Bond hotels.
Bill Bond, the last of the "Bond Boys" who helped make downtown a mecca for seasonal tourists for decades, died Saturday.
Beneath the surface, Mr. Bond was very much his own person. It was his job to read the fine print, make sure laws were followed and keep the hotels in the black. Sam greeted guests and smoothed over problems. Nin Bond, the youngest brother, managed the properties and fixed whatever broke.
In the '50s and '60s, the more recent heyday of downtown hotels, one Bond brother or another met each customer at the airport or train station.
At his visitation at Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home on Tuesday, family friend Dixie Hollins pointed to his own tie. "When you went to downtown St. Pete, it was this," said Hollins, 64. "You wore a coat and tie."
Mr. Bond was president of the Suncoasters, the AAA Auto Club and the Florida Hotel and Motel Association. A sense of seriousness about life extended to his religious beliefs.
"Many men are left stranded by having too easy a goal, one they have fulfilled before their usefulness is over," he wrote in a Times guest article in 1952. His faith, he added, made that kind of easy fulfillment impossible.
The brothers had hotels in their blood. Their father, Ninian Ulysses Bond Sr., was a timber businessman who took a train to St. Petersburg around 1921, his family and a cow on board. He bought the Poinsettia Hotel in 1932 and the Pennsylvania in 1937.
Bill Bond was born Sept. 30, 1916, in Baltimore; his brother Sam followed 10 minutes later. They kept the family business going until downtown redevelopment came about.
"The height of the boom was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s," said his son, former City Council member Bill Bond Jr. "That started to decline. He was saddened by that."
But he worked behind the scenes to promote the new downtown. "He helped make St. Pete what it is today," his son said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.