Bruce Bender Share

Jan 5, 2023  |  Layla Price-Bodkin

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.

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