Richard F. Bond ’42 died August 2, 2015, in Cousins Island, Maine.
(The following appeared in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on August 9, 2012):
COUSINS ISLAND — Richard Fletcher Bond, 95, the former Dean of Westbrook College, now the University of New England, died on Aug. 2, 2012, at his daughter’s home on Cousins Island.
Born on Oct. 21, 1916, the second son of Henry and Mary Creeden Bond, he grew up on Munjoy Hill. He graduated from Portland High, and for several years worked as an usher at the State Theater and the Eastland Hotel. He often said those years were the happiest of his life, and it is of those times that his best-known poem, ‘The Road to the River,’ was written.
He then entered Portland Junior College, soon transferring to Bowdoin. There he worked till midnight every night at a hotel in Bath, walked to his sister’s home two miles away, and got up again at six to hitchhike the ten miles to Bowdoin. He interrupted his studies to join the U.S. Army in 1940. ‘Even then,’ he later said, ‘it was evident what the Germans were doing to the Jews, and I felt I had to help stop it.’
His early Army career was spent at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth and other forts in Casco Bay. When war broke out he was sent to Officer Training School, graduating as a Second Lieutenant. In 1942, he married Isobel Ray, a childhood friend and Munjoy Hill neighbor. After further Army training in Texas and California he boarded a troop ship to England and went ashore in France leading an infantry platoon.
Mr. Bond was in the second wave of troops to cross Remagen Bridge into Germany, and fought many battles in Germany, helping to free the Nordhausen concentration camp, and finally meeting Soviet troops at the Elbe River. ‘We didn’t know until that very day whether we were going to have to fight them too,’ he later said. ‘We were very glad to learn we didn’t.’
He never left a wounded man, often risking his life to save them. In one battle near the town of Barenrode, he received four bullet holes through his jacket while leading the attack and carrying a wounded man to safety.
His company commander wrote of him, ‘Lieutenant Bond went forward in the face of withering bazooka, machine gun and rifle fire and directed a tank in the evacuation of the men who were unable to withdraw without assistance. During the execution of this heroic deed Lieutenant Bond was at all times exposed to fire from the front and both flanks. Not until Lieutenant Bond was personally assured that all his men not killed had been evacuated did he withdraw. His unselfish devotion to duty in coming to the aid of his fallen men, and with utter disregard for his personal safety, was far and above the call of duty and reflected great credit upon himself and the Army of the United States.’
Mr. Bond received two Silver Stars and an Oak-Leaf Cluster for courage under fire. He led every attack, preferring to risk his own life over that of his soldiers. But he hated war, and interceded to prevent the execution of German prisoners. He was deeply loved by his men, many of whom corresponded with him for years.
After the War he completed his studies at Bowdoin, where the famous poet Robert Tristram Coffin called him the most talented young poet of the time. He then earned a master’s degree in English Literature at Columbia University, writing his thesis on the poetry of Shelley.
In 1953 Mr. Bond was appointed Director of Admissions and Professor of English Literature at Westbrook College. In 1956 he was appointed Dean of the College, guided it wisely through many difficult years, and developed and oversaw many of its advancements including the Dental Hygiene and Nursing Departments. His door was always open to every student, he was a tireless advocate and effective leader for faculty members, and a wise advisor to everyone, always putting their well-being first. His wise mentorship of the curriculum and his compassionate guidance of countless undergraduates earned him the respect and affection of both faculty and students.
After retirement in 1980, Mr. Bond and his wife moved to their summer home on a lake near Winthrop. After his wife’s death in 1983 he served as a volunteer at the Augusta Hospital and in other charitable activities. He travelled extensively in Europe and resided in Malaga and Paris, which he loved, particularly the Musee d’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. He also loved the French countryside, which he visited several times with his close friends, former Westbrook College president Jim Dickinson and his wife Kitty, on their boat traveling the canals.
In the last years of his life Mr. Bond composed his Night Thoughts aphorisms, soon to be published, and revised his Collected Poems, first published in 2004. A golden-voiced Irish tenor with a repertoire of a thousand songs, he often sang for groups around the state.
An extremely courageous, kind and peaceable man and Renaissance scholar, Mr. Bond was beloved by the thousands of Westbrook students he oversaw during their college years. The extraordinary success of the College was due in many ways to his wise leadership and his vision of what it could become. The University of New England named an ongoing series of concerts, lectures and art exhibitions in his honor – The Richard Bond Cultural Enrichment Series.
He is survived by his daughter, Leslie Waltman of Cousins Island, and his son Michael of Winthrop; by six grandchildren, Cate, Jacob and Julia Waltman, and Jude, Lucas and David Bond; and his great-grandchildren, Georgia, Ronan and Zoe Bond.
Until his last days he was still able to parse a Greek verb, remember a Latin phrase or a lost detail of history, quote poetry at length, and recall details of every person who had lived on Munjoy Hill, all the way back to the days when horses were the mode of transportation and a car was a rarity on the street. He died in the bosom of his large and loving family, and will always be remembered and loved by those who have had the great fortune to know him.