Robert "Bobby" Bonds, 61, of Bala Cynwyd, an Amtrak executive who used his own recovery from addiction to fuel a program designed to help others, died Thursday, Oct. 29, of cancer at home.
A 39-year Amtrak employee, Mr. Bonds devoted his life to Operation RedBlock, a drug and alcohol intervention and prevention program at the rail company that has grown to be a model for the nation and Europe.
Developed more than 30 years ago, it provided guidelines for employees' families and friends on how to persuade loved ones to kick their addictions and stay substance-free.
The program also used peer pressure and involvement to prevent employees from using alcohol and drugs while operating trains or while on call for such work.
A nationally and internationally known speaker, Mr. Bonds trained 25,000 lay professionals, volunteers, and mental health professionals in Europe and the United States, according to the United Transportation Union.
"Mr. Bonds was a trustworthy friend to many, known for his strong leadership, his ability to bring people together, and his positive outlook on life," the union said in a statement.
Mr. Bonds' professional accomplishments were dwarfed by his 34-year personal recovery from drug abuse. His own struggle empowered him to hold out hope for the lives of addicts and their families.
"Bobby had a favorite saying: 'Don't quit five minutes before the miracle happens,' " his family said.
"Anyone who was lucky enough to come into contact with Bobby recognized immediately that he was larger than life," said longtime friend Tony Iannone. "He was loyal, passionate, and gave himself freely to people in need."
Operation RedBlock provides education, counseling, references for treatment, and a mechanism for employees to take the day off without reprisal if they were impaired when called in for work.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Mr. Bonds graduated from Harriton High School and Harcum Junior College. In his 40s, he earned a master's degree in human services from Lincoln University.
The bulk of his career was spent developing and administering assistance programs for Amtrak as a national director. He retired in 2014.
His empathetic nature led him not only to help people but also to build awareness and understanding of the struggle those with addictions face.
Mr. Bonds directed 155 union-led prevention committees, including 2,400 volunteer committee members and 30 peer counselors across the United States to carry out drug and alcohol prevention and intervention.
He served as the liaison between Amtrak's management and 16 rail labor organizations.
"I can't begin to count the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen members and Amtrak employees whose lives Bobby not only touched but saved in a very significant way," said Mark Kenny, BLET general chairman, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Rail Conference.
Mr. Bonds received presidential achievement awards from three administrations for his work with RedBlock. He pushed for new ways to enhance RedBlock's outreach.
Mr. Bonds met Ronna Rosoff, his wife of 19 years, at the Lord Baltimore Hotel when he was planning a RedBlock conference. At the time, she was working as a sales manager at the hotel.
"Bobby was the first one to give me butterflies," she said. "We complemented each other in so many ways, from blending a family, to living life on life's terms."
His first wife, Pamela Obrant Bonds, from whom he was divorced, died in 2010.
In addition to his wife, Ronna R. Bonds, he is survived by his children - Max and Madalyn from his first marriage, Danielle and Andrew from his second - as well as his mother, Marie Bonds, and a brother.
Services were Sunday, Nov. 1.
Donations may be made to the Main Line Health Homecare & Hospice Foundation, 240 Radnor Chester Rd., Radnor, Pa. 19087, or the Lung Cancer Alliance, 1700 K St. NW, Suite 660, Washington, D.C. 20006.