Dolores Bender

Bender, Dolores M.

Dolores Mae Bender, 92, of 2230 14th Street South, Wisconsin Rapids, died peacefully in her sleep on June 29, 2013 at Harmony Living Center.

Funeral Services will be on Saturday July 6, 2013, at 11:00 AM at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. The Rev. Rolando Onden will officiate with burial following at Calvary Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Friday July 5, 2013,from 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM at Herman-Taylor Funeral Home with a 7:30 PM prayer service and again from 10:00 AM Saturday until time of service in the gathering hall at St. Lawrence Church.

Dolores was born May 17, 1921 in Biron, Wisconsin to Irvie and Helida (Gagnier) Rayome. She graduated from John Edwards High School as the valedictorian of her class and was then employed as a stenographer at the Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company office. In 1940 she met and fell in love with her future husband, Robert P. Bender. Their romance was interrupted by World War II and her fiancé's 26 month tour of duty overseas in North Africa and Italy. The many letters they exchanged during the war years tell tales of anxiety, yearning, love and loyalty. Her prayers for his safe return were answered and they were married a week after his arrival home on June 27, 1945 at St. Alexander Church in Port Edwards, Wisconsin.

The young couple moved to Madison and with the help of the GI Bill were both able to enroll at the University of Wisconsin. With her husband working the night shift at the Oscar Mayer plant and attending classes by day, they were able to support themselves by serving as live-in maid and butler for an affluent Madison family. Dolores earned a bachelor's degree, majoring in Home Economics and minoring in Chemistry. This combination would prove invaluable for her future family as she created for them a wonderful and nurturing home environment using the simple elements of respect, encouragement and independence.

In 1951, after Bob's graduation from UW-Law School they returned to their hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, where they settled on the west side and raised six children. Their house on High Street became Dolores' living laboratory and was a constant testing ground for cooking, sewing, gardening, and furniture refinishing projects. During the 1960's, she served as her daughters' Woodland Girl Scout Troop Leader at St. Lawrence school. Many young girls were prepped for adulthood as Dolores guided them through survival skills at Camp Sacagawea, instructing them in the many craft and life skills they acquired while earning a sash full of badges ranging from "first aid" to "outdoor cooking." Field trips to see the skyscrapers of Chicago were flights of fancy and fascination for Wood County teenagers under her wing.

Given both her parents' French heritage, Dolores was especially interested in genealogy and with the help of the French-Canadian cousins she located and visited with in Ontario, she was able to trace the "Gagnier" line back to the 1700's in France. She was proud to learn her descendants helped build the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre` in Quebec, Canada.

Dolores and her husband of 62 years, Robert appreciated the value of a Catholic education making sacrifices that enabled all their children to reap the benefits of diplomas from St. Lawrence School and Assumption High School.

Dolores will be remembered by those that loved her as a creative, generous, and charming personality. Befitting her heritage, she had as the French would say "savoir faire" or the ability to say and do the right thing in any situation. She could negotiate a bargain whether she was at a market in Rome or stocking up on "school clothes" at a 60's Ridukulaus Day Sale on Grand Avenue. The Christmas stockings she hand-knitted for every grandchild grace many a mantle across the country. Whether she was cooking for her family of eight or the entire hot lunch program at St. Lawrence School, you could count on not only a nutritional meal but also in her words a "colorful" one. A cook at heart with a penchant for the practical, she was baking tuna pizza long before they called it fusion cuisine. She prided herself as independent and a self-starter whether it was backpacking through Europe while in her 70's or driving into her late 80's. Her engaging smile topped off with her burgundy beret will be sadly missed.

Dolores is survived by her six children, John (Susan) Bender of Annandale, Va.; Patricia (Gary) Davidson of Germantown, Wis.; Thomas (Mary Jane) Bender of Wellington, Fla.; Richard (Linda) Bender of Wisconsin Rapids; Daniel (Dorothy) Bender of St. Cloud, Minn.; and Barbara Bender of Colorado Springs, Colo.; 17 grandchildren, Christopher (Melissa) Bender and Julie (Michael) Hall; Erik Davidson and Kevin (Sarah) Davidson; Amy (Matt) Neely, Tricia (Matt) Austin, Robert (Amy) Bender, Timothy Bender, Stephen Bender, and Molly (Tim) Chism; Emily Bender, Allison Bender, and Elliott Bender; Andrew Bender and Anna Bender; Matthew Simek and Marissa (Peter) Simek as well as 11 great-grandchildren and one brother, Verlyn (Lola) Rayome, Maysville, NC. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert in 2007; one daughter, Mary Kay, at birth; and siblings, Reuben (Vivian) Rayome, Ardin Rayome, Ardean Kranzusch, and Francis Rayome.

The family wishes to express their gratitude to the staffs at The Renasissance and Harmony Living Center for the care and comfort they provided Dolores during her final years.

Memorials may be designated to Assumption High School.

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Funeral Home

Herman-Taylor Funeral Home and Cremation Center
2201 Chestnut Street Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
(715) 423-5460

Published in Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune from July 1 to July 2, 2013