Donald F. Bender, 86 / July 23, 1923 – Jan. 18, 2010

Published 10:49am Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Donald F. Bender, 86
Donald F. Bender, 86

Donald F. Bender, 86, of Tomahawk Lane, Niles died at 3:25 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 at Caretel Inns of Royalton, St. Joseph of a brief illness.

Donald was born on July 25, 1923 in Grand Rapids to Frank and Mary Bender. Coming from Grand Rapids in 1947, he became a Niles resident. Don retired after 41 years as a physical education instructor with the Niles Community School System. For more than 25 years, he also worked as a life insurance agent with Northwestern Life Insurance Co.

He was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Niles and active as a deacon and sang in the church choir. A graduate of Grand Rapids Central High School, he continued his education for two years at the University of Michigan, where he played football. Don then earned his baccalaureate degree from Western Michigan University and played basketball there for two years. Later, he achieved his master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

While teaching in the Niles system, he coached football, basketball and track, compiling an unbelievable winning record of 812 versus 178 losses. This record as well as his reputation earned him membership to the Michigan Athletic Association’s Coaches Hall of Fame. He also was elected to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

Later, Don became a basketball official with the Fruitbelt Athletic Association. He also served Niles as athletic coordinator of Ring Lardner Junior High School.

Locally, he was affiliated with the Niles Lions, Masons, Shriners, Elks, Eagles and Orchard Hills Country Club.

On Aug. 21, 1948 in Morris, Ill., he married Margaret M. “Scotty” Macdonald, who survives.  A son, Steve (Amy) Bender of Buchanan and three granddaughters, Lauren, Michelle and Alison, survive.  A brother, Jack (Jane) Bender of Ann Arbor, and a sister, Marjory Bender of Michigan, further survive.

Funeral services for Donald F. Bender will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 at First Presbyterian Church of Niles with the Rev. Nelson E. Lumm of the church officiating.  Family committal burial services will take place prior to the funeral at Silverbrook Cemetery, Niles.

The family will receive friends at the Halbritter Funeral Home Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Contributions in memory of Donald may be made to the Berrien County Cancer Service, 7301 Red Arrow Highway, Stevensville, MI 49127.

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  • Webproze

    Mr. Bender was a great coach, teacher, and man. He will be missed.

  • Donald Hughes

    I have known Coach Bender for many years he was my Coach, Teacher, and Insurance Agent. He will be missed. Our Thoughts and Prayers go out to is family and friends.

    Don Hughes

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