The dichotomous dynamo Deedee Bondurant is zany, brainy and not afraid to make waves around the lake.

By Elizabeth Hock
Laker Weekly
Elizabeth Hock | The Roanoke Times
Deedee Bondurant and her cocker spaniel, Zach, at home on Petty's Creek.
Deedee Bondurant

  • Lives: On Merriman Way, Moneta
  • Occupation: Retired, once owned a boutique and a yarn store
  • Family: Married to Lou Bondurant, who invented a chemistry for the printing industry; four daughters, one deceased; four grandchildren
  • Pets: An American cocker spaniel, a Yorkie and a cat
Chartreuse is Deedee Bondurant's signature shade.
It's fitting: Chartreuse is the color that is most visible to the eye, and if Deedee Bondurant is anything, she's visible -- and colorful.
Whether sporting a chartreuse feathered boa or zipping around the lake on her personal watercraft, green-goggled cocker spaniel Zach aboard, it's almost impossible to ignore Bondurant.
That the She-Do guru is a native of Texas isn't surprising. Bondurant, who started the women-only group of PWC riders, has a larger-than-life personality that many say makes her the closest thing SML has to a "character."
Known for her humor, the 64-year-old always-trying-to-quit smoker is self-effacing, quick with a quip and is as much entertaining as she is a renowned entertainer.
Bondurant loves a party -- be it the GOP or her annual Virginia Dare Flotilla for Toys gathering that attracts hundreds to her home.
Blunt, brash and bossy are words that have been used to describe her. So are generous and gregarious.
Those who know Bondurant agree that she has more energy than women half her age and she's put it to use for a number of philanthropic causes around the lake.
She's active in her church; serves as president of the SML Republican Women; is among the unnamed plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Franklin County and the board of supervisors for changing the zoning to allow Trey Park's LakeWatch Spa and Resort to proceed; and has been involved in almost every charitable organization at the lake -- from the SML Charity Home Tour to Celebrate the Lake, her current cause.
Bondurant is not afraid to speak her mind, and yes, she admits to being bossy.
"She can step on toes," said a lake-area resident who has volunteered with Bondurant on several committees. "But she gets the job done."

Who says Republicans are no fun?
Corpus Christie, Texas, native Saundra Dee Bloch ("I was before Sandra Dee," she said), a young, single working mother who owned a boutique on the Texas coast, met Louis Bondurant, a Richmond native 25 years her senior, in Lake Tahoe, Nev. They married in 1976.
The couple, each of whom had two daughters from previous marriages, moved to Virginia, settling near Charlottesville, where they renovated an historic farm and got into the thoroughbred horse business. They moved to Middleburg, where they built another horse farm, lived for a while on their 72-foot yacht and dabbled in refurbishing antique cars.
The couple discovered Smith Mountain Lake, and after two visits, "came out of the sprawl of Northern Virginia" and bought a home on a peninsula on Betty's Creek in 2000.
"I knew we wanted to be on the water," she recalled. "It's a different world; it's an emotionally happy place," said Bondurant of the lake.
The couple's travels, including Deedee Bondurant's horse trek through New Zealand, have taken them around the world.
"We did our share of traveling before coming to the lake, which makes hanging around here really easy," she said. "I'm happy we did so much before the knees, hips, mind and everything else began to fail."
Not long after settling at SML, Bondurant got involved in the social scene and was on her way to becoming known as one of the lake's premier hostesses.
"Deedee throws great parties -- she loves to entertain," said Linda Till of Moneta, a fellow She-Do who has known Bondurant for six years.
The Bondurants' annual Flotilla for Toys boat parade party has become a tradition -- one that attracts big crowds and "enough toys to fill my SUV," said Bondurant.
"I got thank you notes from people I don't even know," she quipped.
On a more serious note, Bondurant acknowledged that being able to share her good fortune, including a vantage point on the lake that's enticing for all seasons and a creative streak that makes party planning come easy are good reasons to entertain.
But there's another.
"I usually end up with dozens of extra things ... cactus-stemmed glasses from a Mexican-theme party, Halloween goblets, loads of Mardi Gras decorations ..." she said. "When you collect all this mess, you are forced to entertain and reuse it."
Bondurant's daughter, Audrey Barlow of Charlottesville, said that besides being "the life of the party," Bondurant puts life into a party, even when the party guests are children and the venue is a classroom.
"As the homeroom mom, when she did a class party, it wasn't just cupcakes and juice," Barlow recalled. "She was the original Martha Stewart, and she had the party themed out to the max, and did it with a few pennies and with little spare time."

She-Doing it
Besides her parties, Bondurant probably is best known around the lake as the founder and driving force behind the She-Dos. The group of women don bright green safety vests on a regular basis to ride their personal watercraft together and often are spotted at lake functions in bright green feathered boas and other accessories.
"A bunch of us who were long in the tooth got these machines and we were terrified," Bondurant explained. "We wanted to learn how to operate them."
Bondurant swears the She-Dos are as much about boater education and getting to know their way around the lake as they are socializing.
"We're not just social," she said. "The She-Dos do have a purpose. We want to serve the community. We couldn't just ride and eat our way around the lake."
Activities have included a "She-Do Olympics" with an obstacle course that had the women learning how to stop, throttle and retrieve items from the lake, and a scavenger hunt with clues placed at various lake landmarks that helped familiarize them with SML.
The She-Dos' activities have evolved from water to land -- they volunteer as a group to staff one of the homes on the SML Charity Home Tour each year. Several years ago they entered the annual SML Chili Festival at Bridgewater Plaza, where Bondurant said, they picked up three trophies.
Bondurant and Till still laugh about their "overplanning" for the event.
"We needed to figure out how much chili we needed to feed the crowds in a six-hour time period," Till recalled. "We determined that we needed about 6 or 8 gallons."
Till said they found chuck roast on sale, asked the butcher to grind it up for them and took home 60 or 80 pounds of chuck.
"We ended up putting like 30 pounds of meat in the chili," said Till. "Needless to say, the She-Do Voodoo Chili was the meatiest in town."
The two women ended up serving their families a lot of ground chuck that year.

Venerable volunteer
When Deedee Bondurant was learning to write, a teacher suggested she spell Deedee as one word. That way, she wouldn't have to pick up her pencil and it would save her a motion.
It's possible the teacher didn't realize energy was something Deedee Bondurant had to spare.
Bondurant puts that energy to use for several charities and organizations.
In 2002, she and Lou opened up their home for the SML Charity Home Tour, a move that served as the catalyst for her involvement as sponsorship administrator in the years following.
Bondurant has been active in the Moneta Garden Club, SML Water Safety Council and the Smith Mountain Lake Association's Celebrate the Lake event. She also is involved in collecting books to be donated to the Moneta/SML Library.
"If you could hook Deedee up to a nuclear power plant, you could double the energy," said Bob Camicia, president of SMLA. "She's a marvelous person to work with. She's got lots of energy and ideas."
Bondurant is heavily involved in planning Celebrate the Lake, scheduled for June 21. The event will move to Parrot's Cove this year to tie in with the boat show and parade, she said. Plans have not been finalized, but may include vendors, docking lessons, a live and silent auction, cash bar and dinner. It will not include "the loud band from last year," she added.
At Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Bondurant helps not only with hospitality, but with the prayer ministry.
She started a prayer shawl bestowal program several years ago.
"I thought it would be a great way to use a talent that had gone dormant with other things I was involved in," she explained.
She's knitted approximately 40 to 50 shawls, getting much of the work done while accompanying husband Lou, who suffers from leukemia, to his daylong chemotherapy sessions. The shawls are distributed to area residents and offer comfort to those in need, said Bondurant.
Her work with the church's hospitality committee "affords me an outlet to decorate, bake and shake and land in a pile of dirt," she said.
Once, while decorating the tables for a church function, Bondurant decided to use a collection of bird houses as centerpieces.
Running short on time, she snatched several from the trees in her yard.
"I went over, set up the tables, stood back and thought to myself: 'Yeah, these look pretty darn good,'" she recalled.
Bondurant returned a few hours later to begin final preparations for the dinner and got an unappetizing surprise.
"Oh my gosh, some of those tables were crawling with ants," she said. "We did a quick pinch here and there, solved the problem and prayed we had it under control."

A serious side
"Deedee's like two sides of the coin," said Till. "She's very generous and will do anything for you. But she's very opinionated and straightforward."
"If you don't want to hear what's on someone's mind, don't talk to Deedee," said SMLA's Camicia. "She'll tell you what she thinks."
Politics is one area where Bondurant is wont to tell you what she thinks, but stops herself. As head of the SML Republican Women, she's not allowed to endorse any candidate until he or she is the official candidate.
Bondurant became active in politics when Democrats were the majority in Texas or "when Republicans in Texas had to stay in the closet," as she described.
She belonged to the Young Republicans of Texas, attended several state conventions and was at Ronald Reagan's 1981 inauguration, the highlight of her political involvement.
As part of a group of People for Responsible Growth, a group of Betty's Creek residents who have filed a lawsuit against Franklin County and the board of supervisors for their endorsement of LakeWatch Spa and Resort, Bondurant spent hours researching and poring over background information to support her group's position.
Bondurant said she's been asked not to discuss the lawsuit, but said she supports the county's comprehensive plan and acknowledges that growth at the lake is inevitable.
"Wherever you have water and land, you're going to have growth," she said.
Till said Bondurant does her homework when it comes to issues that affect the community.
"She's very intelligent, very savvy," said Till. "She will tell you what she thinks is good and bad with the community. If somebody says something that's not correct, she's not going to worry about hurting your feelings -- she'll set you straight."
Barlow said her mother has a hard time delegating responsibility.
"She always told us 'If you want to do something right, do it yourself.' She can come across as pushy and critical, but most people find that refreshing and admire her for it," Barlow said.
"But what amazes me most about my Mom is that she did not get a formal education, yet she is one of the smartest, most capable people I know."

The future
Bondurant said she considers herself lucky that she and Lou found Smith Mountain Lake.
"We're blessed to be here. We all came here willingly. This is a melting pot -- people from all walks of life whose paths would never have crossed if we hadn't moved here. We all blend together; we all pull together. It's our Utopia."
At 88 and suffering from cancer, Lou Bondurant has slowed down. It's obvious that he and his wife have a mutual respect for each other and share a keen sense of humor.
"She's better than most women I've met," he said with a grin.
But you're not likely to see Deedee Bondurant slowing down any time soon. And it's a good bet she won't become any less vocal about issues involving the lake.
"It's in the master plan to spend the rest of my life here," she said, "but you never know ..."