Bender, Donald J.


Donald J. Bender, age 90, of Winona, passed away on Monday, March 23, 2020, at Winona Health.

Don was born on September 2, 1929, in Winona, to Martin and Mary (Stellpflug) Bender, and honorably served his country with the United States Army during the Korean Conflict. He was united in marriage with Marlene Pflughoeft on September 25, 1954, at St. Martin’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Winona.

Donald is lovingly survived by his wife of 65 years, Marlene; children, Robert (Robin) Bender, Kate (Dennis) Hengel, and Karen (Daniel) Paszkiewicz; seven grandchildren, Michael (Jamie) Hengel, Andy Hengel, Aaron (Heidi) Stangl, Alysa (Mike) Ressler, Ariana (Jake) Bender, Kelly (Jeremy) Kruchten, Katie Paszkiewicz; 11 great-grandchildren, Colton, Easton and Bryson Hengel, Caitlyn, Preston and Sierra Stangl, Kollyn, Kaiden and Aubryana Alwes, Cooper Kruchten and Trysten Perrigo; brother-in-law, Martin (Susie) Pflughoeft; sister-in-law, Christine Bender; as well as other relatives, nieces and nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Joseph Bender; and a sister, Rosemary Kohner.

He was employed with the Milwaukee and Northwestern Railroad shops, as a driver for Coca Cola Bottling and Springdale Dairy, and in the maintenance department of Winona State University until his retirement. Don was a proud member of the American Legion, and of St. Martin’s Ev. Lutheran Church where he served as an usher and served on its Finance Committee, the Board of Elders, and the Education and Property Boards.

Donald was a devoted husband and loving father. He enjoyed watching birds and anything outdoors. He could sit and watch for hours any type of construction work or river traffic. He took great pride in being a Boy Scout leader and did a great job. He spent many years with his family camping, playing yard games, card games and enjoying his friends. He also was a self-taught mandolin player and enjoyed jamming with his Floridian friends for many years during the winter months. He had a knack for being silly and making people laugh, and created nicknames for special family members and friends. He will never be forgotten and remembered always as husband, dad, grandpa, great-grandpa and Whooper.

A funeral will be held at a later date at St. Martin’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Winona. Burial will be held at Woodlawn Cemetery, Winona, with military honors.

Online condolences or memories may be left for Don’s family at

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christ Blessing Our Future at St. Martin’s Ev. Lutheran School, Winona.

I Will Be An Angel Too — “I will be so all alone, For you know I love you true, We will meet again some day, I will be an angel, too.”

Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.


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