Belinda Denise Bunde
January 15, 1972 – September 16, 2023
Belinda “Bodacious B” Bunde, 51, died last Saturday in Papillion after a life well-lived with a progressively challenging condition. She is preceded in death by her father, Rod Bunde; brother, Byron Bunde; favorite cat, Bouncer. She is survived by her mother, Susan Bunde; brother, Bryce (Carmen) Bunde; nephews, Zachary and Maxwell Bunde. Belinda had a bright and fighting spirit that will be celebrated by friends, family and caregivers on Sunday, September 24, 2023. 12:30 – 3:30 PM at West Center Chapel, in the sunniest room in the funeral home. A service will start at 1:00 PM followed by light fare and fellowship. Please wear light or bright colors.
To View a Live Broadcast of the Funeral Service, please visit www.heafeyheafey.com and press the “View Live Cast” Button.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Project II- the Omaha Chapter of People’s First of Nebraska. Tax Deductible Donations in Belinda’s honor may be written to: People First of Nebraska, Inc., P.O. Box 5292, Grand Island, NE 68802. Please write Project II- Belinda Bunde in the memo line.
My name is Belinda Denise Bunde. I’m a social butterfly and “congenital smart alec.” I like being around people, I’m a dare devil who’ll try anything. I’m a shopaholic and hugaholic. I like to have fun and joke around. I’m a Capricorn, advocate, collect poems and angels, make cards and art, like football, dancing, plays, games, and family time.
I was born January 15, 1972, at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, NE. I weighed 4 lbs, 13 oz, 15 in long. I was small but seemed healthy. My mom bought baby doll clothes for me because I was so tiny. I grew into a toddler that, according to my mom, “never slept!” I was diving out of my crib by age one, so mom put a mattress on the floor. I was a climber and crawler and always on the move. I was ornery even then.
We found out later my oldest brother and I were born with a genetic disorder called Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy. We didn’t get a diagnosis until I was 6 and my brother was 14. My simple explanation for this disorder is: we both walked and did what everyone else does for the first few years, but we were slowly losing a lot of our abilities. Now we’re both blind and can’t walk, have speech problems, and eating disorders to name a few of our losses. A positive is we both have very sharp minds.
I attended JP Lord – a school for children with disabilities – for kindergarten. I transferred to Yates Elementary for 1st and 2nd grade. I had a teacher who didn’t understand disabilities and I had to repeat the 1st grade. When I got into 2nd grade, they could see how smart I was, so I skipped the 3rd grade. I attended Laura Dodge Elementary for 4th – 6th grades. I got my first set of wheels in the 4th grade and blossomed.
From the ages of 5 to 24, I went to Easter Seals Camp in Milford. In 1996 I went to the Colorado Camp. I loved all the activities, especially swimming where I got my nickname “Fish.” The best part of the camp was the people. I made friends with staff and campers alike and may have been known to flirt. To support these valuable camps, I participated in Easter Seals telethons from 1977 to 1995. In 1990 I was chosen to be their Easter Seals Telethon Junior Representative. Through high school I participated in Special Olympics in wheelchair races and softball throw. My right arm was always my strongest for throwing balls, smacking brothers, and giving the best hugs.
In Jr. High, I volunteered at the Dept. of Social Services, Salvation Army, Humane Society, JP Lord School, Montessori Preschool, and Children’s Museum. Then I went to Northwest High School where I joined the Huskers Club, Junior Achievement, and Future Business Leaders of America. In FBLA I received an award for academic excellence and was a top seller selling $772.00 worth of tie-dyed boxer shorts and Nebraska football posters. I sold enough to go to a conference in Des Moines, IA. The teacher said they couldn’t take me because of my wheelchair. Mom told her they’d get me there and the next year the teacher made arrangements for transportation to the Kansas City conference. Mom and I were always teaching people what being handi-capable and inclusive really meant.
I’ve always wanted to work with children, so after I graduated in 1991, mom found a childcare center that would let me volunteer, I was there 18 months before I had to stop for health reasons. I also gave time to Bethphage Respite and a nursing home in Gretna.
I have lived in several different kinds of environments. I lived at home with my family until I was 19. Then I moved into my first apartment in Omaha through League of Human Dignity. I had funding to help hire more staff. Then I moved into another apartment off 96th and “Q.” In 1994, I had 2 Harrington rods placed in my back. After one month of rehab, I had Jury Duty. I got my first electric wheelchair that same year.
My brother and I wanted to live together, and we both needed caregivers, so we moved into a brand new Bethphage 4-plex in Papillion. Bethphage couldn’t provide nurses to care for our increasing health needs, so we moved to a Medical Support Unit through Encore. There were four of us who lived there full-time and 3 respite beds to give other families breaks. We lived there for several years then the state closed the MSU because of the cost. We moved into a nursing home in Gretna for a short time before moving to Wahoo, NE receiving services through Region V in 2001 until 2007. We lived in a townhouse for 4 years before moving into a duplex in Bellevue run by Hands of Heartland in 2011. Byron passed away in 2014 and I was there nearly 7 more years with various roommates and many rotating staff. A few were special and very helpful to me, many posed communication challenges, and new frustrations. When Hands of Heartland felt like they weren’t a good fit for my needs, we found a Shared Living Provider (SLP) in Papillion through Loving Homes Services. They were a family with another client, and I’d live in their home. It seemed like a good fit for a while, but after 15 months they gave notice, and I moved in with a different SLP who only lasted 3 months. In January I made my final move to live with Helen and Chanda. It took some getting used, on all our parts, but I loved their active faith, sassy attitudes, girly flourishes, and working with me to establish reasonable routines. After Helen left while I was in the hospital, it was Chanda who took such good care of me the last month.
One of my proudest accomplishments is being brave enough to begin correspondence with author and song-writer John Archambault regarding he I’m a Can-Do Kid tape in 1995. His lyrics inspired me, and I encouraged him to include lyrics for handi-capable kids like me. In March of 2000, when I was 23, I attended a Teacher Literacy conference at Peru State College. I met John Archambault in person, we sang together, and he gave me the stage name Bodacious B – outright, unmistakable, remarkable, noteworthy. Later that year in September, we performed a concert together on stage at UNO Strauss Performing Arts Center, sponsored by Martin Luther Homes who presented me with the Achievement Award of Excellence for my efforts to make a difference for handi-capable children. Every year when school students came to tour, I showed them how my communication board and wheelchair worked.
My dream came true when the lyrics appeared in the 2001 printing of a building self-esteem book for grades K – 3, I’m a Can-Do Kid. John Archambault and David Plummer added the verse . . .
I’m a wheelchair wonder with wishes and dreams.
I’m handi-capable—just watch me.
I can do wheelies and three-sixties, too.
I’m in the Can-Do Kid Club—just like you.
I’m a Can-Do Kid. Yes, I am.
The dedication said, “For Belinda Bunde, a wheelchair wonder and “Can-Do Kid” who taught us that everyone is handi-capable.”
This is the same year Byron and I moved to Wahoo. Director of Wahoo Region V Services, Kal Losteral, knew the potential I had to share my knowledge and interest with others. He invited me to a conference at Mahoney State Park where I met Mary Ann Smith. From the time we met we were connected, became great business partners. She introduced me to Essential Lifestyle Plans. I loved it and began training on how to use this more visual and storytelling style of communicating individual needs, preferences, favorite people, events, routines, etc. to caregivers.
In 2004 I attended the first Midwest Regional ELP Gathering in Des Moines. After becoming a certified facilitator, I gave presentations locally and in several states. The creator of ELP program, Michael Smull, added me to his website. Kal was proud of my work and awarded me an Achievement Award for Outstanding Performance at Region V Services. I became a member of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Region V Developmental Disabilities Council, and People First of Nebraska Wahoo Chapter.
My business continued to grow, and exciting things happened in 2005! In April John and I held another concert at UNO, this time my nephew, Zach, age 6, was able to come! I also went to the capitol to meet with Senator Byers and Janet Anderson, Legislative Aide, to promote Essential Lifestyle Planning. I am a good salesperson. Senator Buyers and Mr. Ferdinand, administrator for Nebraska health and human services, both wanted copies of my ELP and we exchanged business cards! When people listen to me, I am doing something good. I am really hones and that helps them. You also must show persistence and your personality. I can me ME. I never give up. I want to meet with the Governor. And eventually I did meet Governor Heinemann!
2005 was also the year I took flight on my first airplane trip as an adult. Mom and dad and I flew to Portland, Oregon for the International ELP Gathering. I took a spill off a curb and scratched up my face pretty good, but that didn’t stop me from dancing the night away! We visited Multmoma Falls, had seafood dinner, and met people from all over the country, UK, and Canada. Back at home I gave a presentation to Council Bluffs Hospice Volunteers and lobbied for a laptop with software called Jaws to help me navigate the computer better. By 2006 I received word that people in Scotland and British Columbia, Canada were using my ELP newsletters as examples to build their programs.
In 2006, C.J. and I became serious and got engaged! We had many conversations with our families about the challenges. That fall we won the creativity award for our costumes as a NASCAR driver and mechanic.
Throughout the next few years, I continued to learn and present. I became a member of the Assistance Technology Project and Region V Services granted me a Certificate of Learning for gaining a better understanding of the medication administration process. C.J. and I won the Creative Halloween Costume award again, this time for being Rapunzel and the king. In 2011 I took the med aid class and got a 96 on the test! In October 2012, Hands of Heartland awarded me Client of the Month.
I have always loved Halloween and creating costumes to incorporate my wheelchair. I have been a cow, a baby in a highchair, a convict, Hanibal Lector, a backwards witch, a mummy, an alien, an astronaut on a rocket ship, and so much more. I love October so much I have a different Halloween/fall t-shirt for each day of the month!
I am an entrepreneurial businesswoman who knows what I want out of life and is not afraid to tackle or try something new. I am an Essential Lifestyle Facilitator & Mentor, in which I train people in the importance of the power of Essential lifestyle planning to encourage individuals to define what they want out of life.
Her family continues her story . . .
Belinda was loved by so many and impacted even more than we can know. She was feisty and funny, sassy, and sincere. She listened to Kat 103.7 and asked to go to every major concert advertised. She’s been to Jason Aldean, Luke Combs, Blake Shelton, and many more prior to Carmen ordering the tickets! She was always the most huggable. In her stronger days, she could trap you for a minute! I joked with her the last time she tried to hug me just after getting out of the hospital that now she could only touch my bum. We laughed, but it was hard to know she had become that weak. But her spirit was always strong! She had great faith, loved to dance and sing and dress up. She had her routines that drove many a caregiver crazy, but she was persistent and got what she wanted. She had such a special connection to Byron as his advocate, voice, and sometimes as annoying little sister. Bryce had a talent for treating just like anyone else and thus was sometimes her annoying little brother. She had a strong right arm, and if he was close, Bryce would get a loving smack for being a smart alec with her. They loved each other dearly. B loved her dad, but her mom was her everything. They spoke almost every day until it became hard for each of them. During COVID when Sue couldn’t have visitors, Belinda made a pillow with a photo of herself with an open arm hug so her mom could see her every day. We made one for Belinda of Sue for the same reason. Even when Sue doesn’t remember some dates or locations, she understands Belinda’s medical needs and condition. They have a deep bond that we believe will continue on.
We will miss her smile, her determination, her persistence, and her big heart.