John Bond has seen a lot over his 87 years. The Air Force veteran, life-long dairy farmer and Magnolia-native has been described as kind, caring, hard-working. And while he has had a positive impact on many who has come in contact with, nothing compares to the one he has had on his wife and five daughters.
That is just part of why he has been recognized as the Enterprise-Journal’s 2020 Father of the Year.
“I figured my wife might be named Mother of the Year, but I never would have imagined I would be Father of the Year,” Bond said. “I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t sink in.”
Growing up on his family’s farm, he quickly learned the value of work ethic, constantly putting in a hard day’s work. He recalls getting up early to work on the farm, milking cows with his siblings before heading off to school.
“We dairyed my whole life, about as far back as I can remember,” Bond said. “At that time, we didn’t have but about 18 cows and with four of us boys and two nieces, we only worked on about three or four cows.”
Of course, there were other chores to tend to, always keeping he, his four brothers, half-sister and three nieces busy.
Bond’s father, Turner Wilson didn’t get married until he was 59-years-old. Not long after marrying his mother, Rosa Lee Cummings-Bond, they began to have children. Bond was the second oldest of four boys. Bond also has a half-sister, Tempie, and his mom adopted his late aunt’s three daughters making a total of four boys and four girls in the home. All of the kids helped on the farm, which not only consisted of dairy ing but also a small cotton field and a cane mill.
After finishing high school, Bond was about to be drafted into the Army but decided to sign up with the Air Force, admitting that he narrowly missed being sent to Korea to serve in the Korean War.
“I was in the Air Force for four years and was in California for about a year and two and a half in France,” he said.
It was then that Bond became even more of a likable person, starting a strong friendship with a local in France.
“They had a French man working for me in a warehouse and he’d invite me and a boy from Louisiana that he like really well, to his home. His wife would cook a big meal,” he said.
When he returned to the states in 1957, Bond went back to work on his family’s farm and over a period of the next four years, his life changed dramatically. He met his future wife Inez, and after getting married a year later, bought the farm from his family and had two children, first daughter LaLinda in 1960 and their second daughter Denise in 1961. Third daughter Michelle was born in 1963, Betty in 1968 and Jeanne in 1971. John and Inez have been married for 61 years.
As his children grew, Bond instilled the many positive qualities that he learned growing up into his own children like how to love and respect others. He also taught them about work ethic as they would help out on the farm as well. The goal was to prepare the next generation in order to not only keep the Bond Farm running but also in the family name.
“We taught the children to work,” Inez said.
LaLinda fondly remembers growing up and working on the family farm helping her father out.
“Lots of hard work,” she said. “He believed in training us as girls to work so the farm wasn’t just about him, it was about us working together.”
The importance of religion and faith are also qualities that Bond passed on to his children. For the past 58 years he has also served as a deacon at Terry’s Creek Missionary Baptist Church.
“He is a faithful father, and the way he fathered all of us was consistent,” Michelle said. “He is a faithful farmer and he was a faithful friend to the community.”
When the girls weren’t working on the farm or going to school, they went on vacation with their parents. While John and Inez enjoyed taking the girls to Gatlinburg, Tenn., in the winter and the beach in the summer, a special trip came in 1979. He took his family to France to meet the couple he connected with while in the service, further cementing the friendship he had developed.
Bond added that the man and his wife came to Mississippi two years prior to meet his family.
Throughout the years, Bond’s love grew more and more as his family did. Today he has 28 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
But with all of the love he has shown to his growing family, he was dealt some adversity. In 1998, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer but has since beat it. Then five years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and last July melanoma.
In January 2018, Denise’s husband Clark tragically passed away. It challenged Bond and his family, as he had to go above and beyond to comfort and support his daughter during her time of need.
“We helped her out,” he said. “We had to take her in and help.”
Denise — who lives near her parents’ house — is extremely thankful for the love her father showed when she needed it the most.
“It was amazing,” she said. “He just let me know that whatever I needed that he would be there for me. He was always very humble and willing to listen to you. Paw Paw has been like a father to my children."
Another important quality that his girls picked up that can be used to describe Bond is his gratefulness.
“He is very grateful,” Betty said. “He was grateful that God provided for him and he would have this saying that God always gives you what you need and sometimes what you want and he would say that with a smile. He is grateful for God’s creation. He taught us to watch the sun rise and he taught us to watch the sun set and the stars at night and the moon. These are things that all of us share with our kids.”
Bond’s youngest daughter, Jeanne, is very happy to see her dad honored as Father of the Year, adding that he is very deserving.
“It is just an honor that he deserves,” she said. “If there is anyone who is going to be named Father of the Year, I can’t think of anyone else more deserving of that title. He’s always been there for us and invested in us.”
Even though Bond is still active in some capacity on the farm, the majority of the work is being done by his grandson Brandon Fortenberry, who has since purchased it.
“He takes care of everything, but we are able to help with the cows if we want to,” Inez said. “It’s good to know that I don’t have the same responsibility of having to run it myself,” Bond said. “My grandson is running it and he is a lot younger than I am. I help him sometimes with the cattle.”
A number of positive words can be used to describe Bond, but he wants to be remembered as being honest.
“I just want to be remembered kind of like my daddy, he was always honest,” Bond said. “We always went to church regularly and hardly ever missed.”