Merritt J. Bender

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Merritt J. Bender, 82, passed away Sunday, August 14, 2011 of congestive heart failure. Merritt was born in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania on May 21, 1929 to Mirt and Dona (Delauder) Bender.

Merritt moved to the Panama Canal Zone where he lived with his parents in Gamboa. When he attended Balboa High School, he decided to change his name to Bill. He wrote all his admission papers and assignments using the name of Bill. This went on for months until his parents found out. To this day some of his friends still call him Bill. Upon graduation Merritt attended Florida State University.

Merritt started his career in January of 1948, working at the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS), in Panama, Canal Zone, where he started as an engineer aid, and then advancing to Cartographer. In July 1952, Merritt went to Ambridge, Pennsylvania and married the love of his life Joan, they both returned to Panama in December 1952. Throughout the years, Merritt's assignments took both of them too many different beautiful countries including Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. Wherever Merritt was, he would always return Joan back to Panama in order to have their three children. Merritt continued working for IAGS until August 1967.

In 1967, Merritt accepted a job with NASA in Houston, Texas, where they spent the next eleven years. Merritt worked as technical monitor and advisor in photogrammetric and cartographic work supporting NASA's mapping of the Apollo lunar landing sites among other specialties.

In 1978, Merritt had the opportunity to return to Panama as Director of IAGS. During this time Merritt and Joan entertained many dignitaries, Colonels, Generals and friends. They loved their time in Panama so much that he kept extending his assignment until he retired from IAGS in September 1989 and returned to the Seabrook, Texas area.

Merritt met so many wonderful people while working for IAGS and NASA and was well liked by many local residents, Merritt had a special spot in his heart for each and everyone that he had known. Merritt belonged to various organizations to include the American Society Photogrammetry, Society of Military Engineers, Association of Mapping Seniors, The Panama Canal Society and was a member of the St. Mary' Catholic Church in League City, Texas.

Merritt is survived by sons, Michael Bender and wife Cheryl, Steven Bender and wife Beth, daughter Kim Homa and husband Dean, five grandchildren, Michael, Lauren, Amy, Ryan and Brandon and sister Rosemarie Trudell.

Services will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church in League City, Texas on August 27, 2011 at 1:30 p.m., with a reception following at Merritt's home.


Published on from Oct. 4 to Oct. 17, 2011