Marion native Bruce Bender is a renowned champion in the community for martial arts and public safety.
Known for his 40-year robust career in public safety, Bender was a U.S. Army Police Officer, Marion Police Officer, then Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for Grant County until retiring in 2019.
Alongside his career, Bender built a strong foundation of serving the community through martial arts. Since 1969, Bender has been involved with martial arts and holds a 7th Degree Black Belt in Judo and 4th Degree Black Belt in Jujitsu. In March of 1998, he started the nonprofit, Marion PAL (Police Athletic League) Judo offered to youth and adults for free. Since day one, he has raised funds and paid out-of-pocket for everything under the program from equipment to travel. His wife, Nancy, said, “Much of his time goes to ensuring kids (and adults) in Grant County have access to an opportunity to exercise, develop, and grow through Judo.”
Bender is a loyal champion for children of the community. He often says, “Children are our greatest resource.” He has strict rules for the club – respect, compassion, and discipline – but the #1 rule is, “Do your best, and have fun.”
Bender has also led through various volunteer boards including the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Grant County Humane Society. He remains President of Indiana Judo, and is active with the U.S. Judo Association and USA Judo. Bender also serves on the Grant County Sheriff’s Merit Board and Grant County Crime Stoppers.
In Judo, Bender is a two-time Indiana State Champion and National Masters Champion, and placed 5th in the World Masters in 2005. Among many awards including the Serve Indiana Lifetime Achievement Award he received in 2021, Bender is most proud of the “Champion of the Children’s Award” achieved with Marion PAL Judo for Grant County in 2005.
Despite having two heart operations in his lifetime, Bender is still on the mat at least twice a week as Lead Instructor for Marion PAL Judo, and travels to competitions throughout the country in his undying effort to support his students and their families.
Bender is a 1970 graduate of MHS, and attended Ball State before joining the Army.