Retired Crystal City teacher Hardeman Bond had a strong sense of what she thought was right and proper.
“We flew to Chicago for my son’s graduation in 2013,” said her daughter, Susan Nardizzi, 63, of Crystal City. “On the plane, everyone heard her demand, ‘Why are all these people wearing blue jeans?’
“She would never let me wear jeans growing up. She always said, ‘Blue jeans are for farmers or hippies, Susan. You are neither.’”
Under that somewhat imperious exterior, though, beat the heart of a caring educator.
“She’d stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning grading papers,” Susan said. “My son was talking just the other day about her love of learning and sparking children’s curiosity.”
Mrs. Bond died July 27 at age 97.
She grew up the youngest of six children in a big house on 13 acres in Pevely and was something of a wild child.
“She was a huge tomboy,” Susan said. “She loved playing marbles, climbing trees.”
She went to elementary school in Pevely and graduated from Herculaneum High School.
Although she came to relish her distinctive first name, it had its challenges.
“Hardeman was her grandmother’s maiden name,” Susan explained. “They had three girls and two boys, and my grandfather was just sure it would be another boy.”
There was some confusion when she started at Central Methodist College.
“They’d take roll and say, ‘Mr. Crowe?’ and she’d say, ‘Yesss?’ in this sweet little voice,” Susan said. “The Army sent her a draft notice in World War II.”
Just before Mrs. Bond started college, her mother died.
“At the end of her second year, she decided she would quit and teach,” Susan said. “She signed a contract without telling her father, and he went ballistic when he found out. He told her, ‘You have a contract, you honor it. You’re going back and getting a master’s (degree).’”
Mrs. Bond ended up teaching several years before finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
“Her dad died in an automobile accident her senior year,” Susan said. “So she never did get her master’s.”
In 1948, Mrs. Bond got a job with Union Electric, traveling all over St. Louis teaching women how to use their new electric appliances.
“She knew every road, every path, every shortcut in the city,” Susan said.
Susan said her mother loved to dance. One weekend, when her regular beau was unavailable, Hardeman asked her older sister, Susie Bradley (who would go on to be the mother of former U.S. senator Bill Bradley) who the area’s best dancer was.
“Aunt Susie asked around, and it was unanimous: George Bond,” Susan said. “So my mother called his house, and found he was at a rehearsal for his cousin’s wedding. So she called there and asked him out. His cousin said, ‘Aw, George, you’ve been in a million weddings – go to the dance!”
Hardeman was 31 and George 40 when the Bonds were married in 1953 at Sacred Heart Church in Crystal City – “in front of the rail, because she was a Methodist,” their daughter noted.
Susan was born in 1956, six weeks premature.
“I had to stay in the hospital in an incubator,” Susan said. “I think that put the kibosh on any other kids.”
In 1963, Mrs. Bond went back to teaching, mostly junior high social studies.
“She loved her job,” Susan said. “She was very driven. She wanted every kid to succeed, and it didn’t matter how late she needed to stay tutoring, to make sure every kid could pass the Constitution test.”
She also was a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation.
“She’d watch the news and write down the mistakes Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite made,” Susan said. “She did it as a hobby.”
Susan said her mother was brought up to respect the rules, even if she didn’t always follow them herself.
“Her family wasn’t snobbish, but there were things you just did,” she said. “You always minded your manners, you were respectful, you dressed properly, spoke properly. That showed you were a person of quality, had a good upbringing.”
Mrs. Bond continued to live independently after the death of her husband in 2012.
“The beginning of seeing that things were not all right was coming in and seeing an unpaid bill,” Susan said. “She and my dad were always so organized, so fiscally efficient. They’d pay bills the day they came in. She’d give a kid a birthday check, and she’d want it cashed that day so her checking account would balance to the penny.”
By 2015, Susan said, it was necessary to move her mother to an assisted living facility.
Her dementia crept inexorably forward, but Mrs. Bond kept her sense of humor.
“Her basic personality remained intact. When we talked about (the necessity of the move), she would sing, ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ from the Wizard of Oz,” Susan said with a laugh.
A niece came to visit Mrs. Bond in June, and they went for a ride.
“Theresa asked where she wanted to go, and my mom said, ‘Can we go to heaven?’” Susan said. “Three weeks later, she was gone. She was so ready.”
Mrs. Bond will be remembered for her respect for history and her passion for teaching.
“She really cared about each person,” Susan said. “She lived by the Golden Rule, but with a little bit of sass to it.”
“Life Story,” posted Saturdays on Leader Publications’ website, focuses on one individual’s impact on his or her community.