Epilogue: Cary Bond, 94, had style, grace and manners to spare

An undated photo of Cary Bond, a St. Petersburg socialite who died June 14. She was 94. She had three children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. [Courtesy of Bond family]
An undated photo of Cary Bond, a St. Petersburg socialite who died June 14. She was 94. She had three children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. [Courtesy of Bond family]
Published Jul. 11, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — The elevator doors opened onto the lobby of the luxury high-rise and out stepped Cary Bond. She summoned the concierge.

Mrs. Bond gripped onto the red walker she called her "Cadillac" and asked Carlos Guevara if she could get him something to eat.

"I just had lunch," he said, rubbing his belly, "but I'd love something sweet."

"Your favorite?" she asked.

"You know me so well, Granny," he said. That's what everyone called her, from her family to the staff of the Florencia, where she lived on the ninth floor.

A few hours later, Mrs. Bond delivered a slice of chocolate cake to Guevara.

That was the last time Guevara saw Mrs. Bond, who epitomized Southern charm, grace and manners.

Days later, the St. Petersburg socialite died on June 14. She was 94.

• • •

Of all the well-to-do residents in the building, Guevara recalled, none looked out for him like Mrs. Bond did.

Some of the other residents might drop off cookies during Christmas or a plate of food on Thanksgiving. But no one brought him food every week like Mrs. Bond did — certainly no one else asked if there was anything they could do for the concierge.

But that was Mrs. Bond. She always cared about others.

She also cared about manners. She looked directly at people when they talked to her. She listened. She believed men should stand up when women enter a room.

She even cared about table manners. A few weeks before she died, she reprimanded her youngest daughter Barbara Bond Madison for placing a fork on the wrong side of the plate as she was setting the table.

"Barbara, how old are you?" the 68-year-old daughter recalled her mother telling her.

When Barbara Bond Madison and husband Wayne's eldest son was born, he went to pick up "Granny" to take her to the hospital. When they arrived, he parked instead of first dropping her off at the entrance.

"Oh, Granny let me know," said Wayne Madison, 71, nodding as he recalled that day. "She made sure I knew what I had done was not right. She always made sure I behaved like a gentleman."

• • •

Cary Bond didn't go to college but always joked that she graduated from Clemson University — an all-male school at the time — because she went to so many dances there. She told her daughters about her "late, late dates with boys."

She kept up with the times. She binge-watched TV shows like Suits and Downton Abbey. Still, she held onto her gray flip phone, though she proudly noted that it could take photos.

She also prided herself on maintaining her appearance. She won beauty contests when she was younger. And at 94, she was still getting her hair done at the beauty parlor twice a week — but it always looked impeccable because she did it herself the rest of the time. She never wore jeans, either. She would even scold her daughters for wearing short dresses.

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But it was more than good manners and style that made her a lady.

"She was beautiful inside and out," said eldest daughter Judy Bond Codding, 73. She said her mother noticed things others didn't, that she admired even the smallest of kind gestures.

Every Sunday, Cary Bond attended First Presbyterian Church and afterward, usually invited people over to her house. She loved to host.

"I remember when we were growing up," Barbara Bond Madison said. "People would just walk into our house. They knew they were welcome."

When she invited guests over, she'd whip up some chicken salad to make them feel at home. She made friends easily.

"She had thousands of friends," said Dan Harvey, 90, who knew her for the last two decades. Twice a week, he and a group of friends dined with her. "I was proud to be part of that group. She was our kingpin."

• • •

Cary Bond was born Sept. 26, 1923, in Augusta, Ga. She would go on to call St. Petersburg home for the next 75 or so years.

She married her husband, Ninian Ulysses Bond Jr., in 1941. Then she became a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Ninian Bond's family worked in the hotel business and helped turn downtown St. Petersburg into a tourist destination in the 1900s.

Together, the couple delved into the community. She was a member of the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, the Dalí Museum and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. She also held offices with the St. Petersburg Junior League.

They had three daughters, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Every morning, the great-grandmother spoke on the phone with her daughters and her eldest granddaughter. Pokémon drawings adorned her walls after visits from her great-grandchildren.

Ninian Bond died in 1999 at the age of 79. They were married for 58 years. But Cary Bond still saw her husband every day for the last two decades — she kept a frame with his photo on her bedside table.

"They were a team," Barbara Bond Madison said of her parents.