Robert Stephen Bender died at home on January 30, 2013, surrounded by his family after a short illness, according to Ciriello and Carr Funeral Home.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Benedictine High School in 1947, where he played basketball and football. He was offered a football scholarship to Wittenberg University but stayed in Cleveland and attended John Carroll University. A natural athlete, he excelled in every sport from baseball to water polo. As an amateur boxer, he was undefeated in 26 bouts as a middleweight, including a decision over Cleveland's Jackie Keough, who later fought Randy Turpin for the World Middleweight title.
He served in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor. Bob returned home to marry the love of his life, and wife of 60 years, Donna Smarto. He met Donna before he left for Korea when she was a nursing student at St. Vincent Charity Hospital. She waited for him and after the war, they married, raised four children, and enjoyed 60 years of happy marriage.
As an operating engineer at the Great Lakes Construction Company for 15 years, he helped build parts of Interstate 90, I-71, and I-271. Later, the family moved to Akron, Ohio in 1967 and he founded the Robert Bender Insurance Company. He provided insurance for local sporting events including Nino Benvenuti/Doyle Baird Championship Fight on October 14, 1968 in Akron that many people felt Doyle Baird won.
He bought and renovated 378 South Main Street in Akron in 1978 and spent a year researching and planning for a restaurant that could survive decades of change in downtown Akron. The result was the Diamond Delicatessen that is still in operation today. At that time, he predicted that the 300 block of South Main Street would prosper as the University of Akron expanded. He was the only one who believed it at the time.
He was an amateur archeologist and paleontologist and displayed his collection for years in the window of his office in Bath, Ohio. He loved opera and jazz, prose and poetry, and completed the New York Times crossword puzzle daily, in ink. As a rule, he was "very cool."
Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Alice Bender; his sister and brother-in-law, Carol and Richard Bandsuh; and his brother-in-law, Donald Ferfolia. He is survived by his wife, Donna; his son and business partner, Frank; and daughters, Catherine Bender, PH.D., Roberta Persaud, M.D. (Harry) and Elizabeth Bender, M.D. (William Zavarello); grandchildren, Donna Moyles, Sarah Persaud, and Harry Andrew Persaud; his sisters, Alice Ferfolia and Elaine Peters; and many nieces and nephews. Herodotus said, "There are many men, but few heroes." He was our hero.
The family suggests memorial contributions in his name to the St. Edward Foundation, 3131 Smith Rd., Akron, Ohio 44313.
Arrangements were handled by the CIRIELLO & CARR FUNERAL HOME, 39 S.. MILLER RD. FAIRLAWN.