Rev. Dr. Glenn Bender, 89
Rev. Dr. Glenn N. Bender, 89, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 23, 2023, at Harmony Cedar Rapids.
Glenn Norman Bender was born to Theodore and Lydia (Keller) Bender on Sept. 12, 1934, in Menno, S.D. He was the proud son of farmers and enjoyed talking about life growing up on the family’s small farm in eastern South Dakota. To the end, Glenn had an incredible recall for those early days and the many friends and family he grew up with in the small, German American community. He left home during the Korean War for a three-year stint with the U.S. Army Security Agency which ultimately took him and his young bride Coletta (Kratz) to Alaska. His time there cemented Glenn’s love of the outdoors and he had many fond memories of bonding with his fellow soldiers and their families.
During his time in the service, Glenn’s path turned from an initial interest in mechanical engineering toward the Christian ministry. He later recalled that this was due to an awakened realization of the profound, active, and caring presence God had played in his life and the peace it provided him. He felt called to help others recognize this presence in their own lives so that they might experience the same peace.
Glenn’s religious journey and views were formed through extensive study and education. He first attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls where he received a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy and German in 1960. He went on to earn his bachelor-of-divinity and master-of-divinity degrees from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 1963. He continued his studies even as he actively preached, earning his doctor of ministry degree from the Aquinas Institute and the University of Dubuque in 1977.
Glenn held numerous jobs over the years as he prepared for the ministry, including as an assistant grocery store manager, a painter, an apartment manager, a truck terminal office manager, and an over-the-road tractor-trailer driver. His broad work experience and interest in how things work led to a passion for mechanical tinkering that lasted his entire life. Whether it was repairing the church furnace, fixing household appliances, or spending an afternoon with his head under the hood of a family car, Glenn found peace and purpose in his many do-it-yourself projects.
While in seminary, Glenn served churches in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Jamestown, N.D. Post-graduation he served First Congregational United Church of Christ in Monticello, Iowa for five years before an auspicious call to First Congregational United Church of Christ in Cedar Rapids. It was at First Congregational that he found his ministerial home, serving the church and its parishioners for 32 years and becoming the church’s longest serving minister before retiring in 1999.
Glenn preached a non-judgmental and inclusive gospel. Church members appreciated his thoughtful sermons and gentle humor both at the pulpit and away from it. He loved the music of the church, his weekly children’s sermons, socializing (and eating cookies!) after church in Fellowship Hall and the opportunity to serve and guide a community of devoted members and families. Most weekend evenings would find him attending a church committee meeting or running errands around the church. He was affectionately known as “RB” to members of the many youth groups he led, and he was famous for his sweet tooth at church events.
Outside the church, Glenn enjoyed traveling, camping (including many beloved trips to Colorado and the Southwest), computers, and his mechanical fiddling. He was also a private pilot and partial owner of several planes, enjoying the freedom of floating over the Eastern Iowa landscape in his beloved Piper Cub or Cessna 120 taildraggers. He enjoyed the music of the 70s and was especially fond of the group ABBA. He loved many family dogs and cats over the years. With second wife Carol (Johnson) he also rediscovered a love of horses that reminded him of his early farm years. He particularly enjoyed visits to the stables to see his equine friends and their many farm cat companions.
In recent years, Glenn was president of the resident council at the Harmony senior living center. He made new pets of the many birds and squirrels outside his window and — although they didn’t know it — he kept them well fed with regular purchases of fresh seed. His easygoing demeanor made him a favorite of Harmony staff, and his love of sweets, chocolate, and ice cream was well known.
In words he himself used to describe others, Glenn was “a consecrated Christian and minister, true to his God, his church, his family, and his fellow humans. The world is richer because he lived, served, and died in the faith.” In the words of Matthew 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Although his loved ones ache at the loss, they celebrate a life well-lived and a lifetime of service and good done on behalf of others. Thank you, beloved son, brother, husband, father, relative, and friend.
Glenn is survived by his wife Carol (Johnson), daughter Melanie of Chicago, and son Clark and daughter-in-law Kim Kerbis of Chicago.
Glenn is preceded in death by his beloved parents, wife Coletta (Kratz), older brother LeRoy, and sister-in-law Elnora (Juhnke).
In agreement with Glenn’s wishes, he will be laid to rest at a small, private ceremony at Murdoch-Linwood Cemetery at a future date.
The family encourages mourners to please visit Glenn’s online memorial and guestbook at https://www.murdochfuneralhome.com/obituaries/ and leave their thoughts, memories, and photos.