Bob and Phyllis Bordona have spent much of their adult lives as active community members in Oakdale and its surrounding areas. Their family owned business has furnished homes and outfitted kitchens and laundry rooms for decades.
It is their work however, as parents, that has brought them the most reward and gratitude. Upon welcoming the arrival of their son Ron in September of 1971, the couple’s lives were changed forever.
Their union as husband and wife, however, began 12 years prior to the birth of their only son. On July 11, 1959 in spite of a 108-degree Fresno day, Bob and Phyllis stood surrounded by family and friends and united as husband and wife.
Of the many memories that fill the mind of a bride as she recalls her wedding day, Phyllis remembers the heat and the effect it had on their cake. With groom Bob transporting the five-layer cake from Riverbank to Fresno, once assembled at their reception site it became apparent the heat had gotten the better of the decadent dessert.
“You better come quick,” Phyllis recalled being instructed by a wedding guest, “your cake is leaning … it’s going to fall.”
The bride stated as she and her groom began the cake cutting, it had indeed begun to lean. That circumstance earned the cake an association to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Fifty years later the couple celebrated their union surrounded by their loving family aboard a 1,020-foot Royal Caribbean International cruise ship. Originating in Spain, with stops in Italy and France during its seven-day excursion, the stop in Italy allowed the couple to visit the famed tower and commemorate their wedding day 50 years prior.
While Ron Bordona may be the couple’s only biological child, he is far from the only child to have benefited from their love. During their son’s high school years the family hosted a number of students as active participants in the American Field Service (AFS) program. Now, over 20 years later, the Bordona family not only maintains contact with those students, they regard them as their children.
As proof positive that the feelings are mutual, they were joined by five of their international children along with their spouses and children aboard the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship.
Phyllis first shared the couple’s dream of taking this trip with their children in 2006, when the large group first gathered in Panama for a Bordona family reunion. The Panama reunion was described as a dream come true for Bob, who had a great desire for the family to reunite.
“The thing that has impressed Bob the most,” Phyllis said following the family’s recent cruise, “is how well everybody gets along.”
Considering that each of the students were hosted in the Bordona home at different times, it is no surprise that Bob might find their ease and comfort with one another impressive.
Ranging in age from 33 to 38, each of the five are from different European countries, as well as varying backgrounds. However, through the strength and love of one Oakdale family and through the help of the Internet serving as an irreplaceable communication tool, they are undoubtedly family.
Now, the “children” have added their spouses and their own offspring to the family fold.
“They played with each other well,” Phyllis said of the youngest of the cruisers, sharing her feelings of delight that grandson Robert Bordona, age 2, was able to meet his extended family.
“It was a good opportunity for him (Robert) to get to know his cousins,” she stated.
“It impresses Bob and I what wonderful, wonderful parents they are to their children,” she added of their former exchange students, sharing the pride they felt for their ‘children’ and their accomplishments, both in life and in parenthood.
Throughout the seven-day excursion, the varying families took in sights and activities that both interested and entertained them. As frequent travelers, Bob and Phyllis opted to remain on the ship through much of the cruise, spending quality time with grandson Robert.
“Many times Bob and I would keep Robert, so Ron and Carrie could do their own thing,” she said. “We had the option to take him on land, but we didn’t need to because we had this city on water.
“They had such wonderful activities for them,” Phyllis said of the line-up for both youngsters, as well as grown-ups, on the ship.
As for coordinating travel plans around the globe, the computer proved to be a valuable tool.
“We just e-mailed each other and shared which stops we were each interested in,” Phyllis said of the prior planning, which began close to one year before their departure. “Everyone felt free to do their own thing.”
With a list of ship highlights including: rock climbing, ice skating, in-line skating, Casino Royale, golf simulators, a 9-hole miniature golf-course, swimming pools and a water slide, on board activities were plentiful.
“The best part was having all of our family … and they truly are our family, together,” she said. “The best part is how everybody cares for one another.”
While Phyllis can recall many highlights from the trip, which are now memories to last a lifetime, there is one moment she especially remembers.
“The very best gift of all,” Phyllis said of their 50th anniversary trip, “was all of us gathered in the State Room and they all decided they wanted another reunion in 2011. And they want to come to Oakdale.
“That really was a wonderful thing,” she said, beaming with joy.
Bob, Phyllis, Ron, Carrie and Robert Bordona were joined by AFS students: Reto Schreppers of Switzerland; Roberto Anguizola of Panama; Hanne von Knorring of Finland; Tomas Gallego of Spain and Kirsty McIntyre of New Zealand for the Bordona family reunion.
“They really are brothers and sisters,” Phyllis stated. “They tease each other tremendously. They have the best fun.
“We’re just so proud of all of them.”
For additional information on American Field Service and its varying programs visit www. afs.org.