John H. Bender

[ Age 84 ] Aberdeen Proving Ground instructor and World War II veteran was a devoted family man and Aberdeen Lion.

"He was a good family man. We've all just learned a lot from Jack," said Lions Club President Linda Baine.

May 07, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

John H. "Jack" Bender, a World War II veteran who didn't like to miss a Memorial Day parade or a Lions Club meeting, died Monday of complications from a stroke. The retired Aberdeen Proving Ground employee was 84.

Born and raised in Harrisburg, Pa., Mr. Bender was a corporal in the 85th Infantry "Custer Division" and the 337th Infantry Division, serving in Northern Africa and Italy during World War II, his family said. He was injured by shrapnel in his right arm and suffered a head injury in May 1944 during the drive to liberate Rome, said his son, John F. Bender of Aberdeen.

He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star and numerous other honors for his military service, according to his family.

In October 1944, Mr. Bender married Patricia String of Camp Hill, Pa.

Mr. Bender went to Elizabethtown College on the GI Bill, his family said. He graduated in 1952, with a bachelor's degree in education.

Upon graduation, Mr. Bender and his wife moved to Aberdeen, where he began teaching officer instructor courses at the Army Ordnance Center and School at Aberdeen Proving Ground, his family said.

He retired as chief of communications skills in 1976.

"He was never bitter about his injury in the war," his son said. "He was just grateful to God to have been spared."

"It was a life-changing event," the son said. "He was focused on family and community and was extremely patriotic."

He always attended town parades and Memorial Day services, his son said.

A 50-year member of American Legion Post 128 in Aberdeen, Mr. Bender was also a longtime member of the Aberdeen Lions Club, which awarded him the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award for service. In 2005, he also was honored for 50 years of perfect attendance at the club, which met twice a month.

He served in various positions with the organization, including president.

"He's what we call a Lion's Lion," said Linda Baine, current president of the Aberdeen Lions Club. "He served in all of the positions, chaired all of the committees. Even after 52 years, he attended every event."

And, she said, "He was a good family man. We've all just learned a lot from Jack."

Mr. Bender had been cared for at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Perry Point after suffering a stroke around Christmas, his son said.

Funeral services were held Saturday at Grove Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Bender was a 54-year member.

In addition to his son and wife of 62 years, Mr. Bender is survived by two other sons, Thomas A. Bender of Hampton, Va., and James M. Bender of Bel Air; a sister, Sarah Elizabeth Hildebrand of Camp Hill, Pa.; a brother, Frank A. Bender of Hickory, N.C.; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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