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Dr. Robert Bondurant, who died Sunday, provided "loving wisdom."
Dr. Robert Bondurant, a Roanoke native, died Sunday at the age of 94.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
When the comparatively young minister took the reins of one of Roanoke’s most influential churches and came to the job with some progressive ideas he relied heavily on what he described Wednesday as the “loving wisdom” of parishioner Dr. Robert Bondurant.
The Rev. Clay Turner, now 74 years old and retired in North Carolina, said Bondurant was a key mentor when Turner became the minister of St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Roanoke.
“He was such a stalwart supporter of not just the parish and the diocese but also was a strong nurturer and encourager of the clergy,” Turner said. “I’ll be forever indebted to him.”
Bondurant, a Roanoke native, died Sunday. He was 94.
He was remembered Wednesday by family and friends as a straight-shooter who was generous, smart, funny and devoted to family and church,
Turner said Bondurant helped him navigate the sometimes choppy waters as Turner advocated for change in the Episcopal church, speaking on issues such as the role of women in the clergy. He said Bondurant, who served on St. John’s vestry and was twice its senior warden, encouraged change that could emerge with respect for history and tradition.
One of 11 children born to Emma Jane Wall Bondurant and Charles Robert Bondurant, Bondurant graduated from Jefferson High School and Roanoke College before receiving his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia on Sept. 24, 1944. The next day he married Virginia “Ginny” Bondurant and then reported for active duty with the U.S. Navy on Sept. 28.
He served at a naval base on Oahu, Hawaii, during World War II. He was recalled to serve in the Korean War and was a physician on the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.
Bondurant, an internist, was a physician at Lewis-Gale Clinic and was the sponsor for Lewis-Gale Hospital’s School of Nursing. He ended his career at the clinic as its medical director. After he retired in 1988, he was a volunteer for the Lewis-Gale Medical Foundation.
“Bob was an excellent physician who was very committed to his family and church,” said Dr. Luther Beazley, a former colleague. “He will be missed by the LewisGale family and the entire community.”
Bondurant’s survivors include his wife and their children — Quentin Bondurant, Laura Elliott, Jane Bondurant, Sally Bondurant and Ann Trinkle — as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Elliott said her father was the most generous person she has ever known and a wonderful grandparent.
“And he was incredibly quick-witted,” she said. “He would tell you when you were wrong. And he was right most of the time, which was scary.”
Trinkle’s husband, Dr. David Trinkle, a member of the Roanoke City Council, described his father-in-law as “one of those rare individuals who made everyone in his presence feel important,” ranging from Bondurant’s patients to his grandchildren.
The family said Bondurant was an avid tennis player until age 89. Jack Airheart, 89, was often his tennis partner in doubles.
“We were the oldest ones on the court,” Airheart said. “Bob and I were a little slower and when we got some youngsters [as opponents] and they hit the ball all over the court we didn’t do too well.”
“He was a great guy,” Airheart said. “He was a good Christian and I tried to be one too.”
Elliott said her father’s faith was an integral part of his life.
In June 1978, Bondurant was named Roanoke’s Father of the Year in Religious Activities. He served on the boards for Virginia Episcopal School and for Westminster Canterbury of Lynchburg. He also served on the board of trustees for Virginia Theological Seminary, which later awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke.
News researcher Belinda Harris contributed to this report.
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