November 12, 1926 - June 29, 2022
Walter (Ozzie) Bender, age 95, passed away on June 29, 2022 in Tacoma surrounded by family. Blessed with a long and full life, Ozzie was born on November 12, 1926 at home in Oak Park, Illinois to the late Louis and Julia (Rueber) Bender. He had one sister, the late Angeline Jefferson. He treasured the values of the Ten Commandments that his Lutheran parents taught him.
Ozzie graduated from the Oak Park-River Forest High School and entered the University of Michigan before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1944. He trained on B-29’s in Texas and was assigned to the 394th Bombing Group of the 9th Air Force as a flight engineer on B-26 and A-26 aircraft in the European Theater of Operations. When the war ended, he witnessed Dachau and the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials. Ozzie continued his service in the Air Force Reserve, training with Reserve Units of the Air Force, U.S. Navy, Civil Air Patrol and other countries’ cooperative military units. In 1986, he retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Major.
Ozzie returned to the University of Michigan to continue his studies at its School of Forestry and Conservation. During summers in 1947 and 1948, he worked as a U.S. Forest Service Smoke Jumper based in Missoula, Montana. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Forestry in 1949. While employed by the Ahonen Lumber Company, he earned a Master’s degree in Forestry Management in 1950.
In 1950, Ozzie traveled to Liberia, West Africa where he worked as Rubber Planter for Firestone Plantations Co. until 1953, when he took a position in Haiti with the U.S. Export-Import Bank to manage and develop Haiti’s pine forests. In 1957 he went to Colombia as a Forest Advisor to the Government of Colombia for the U.S. State Department.
In 1955, while skiing in Klosters, Switzerland, Ozzie met the love of his life, Liliane Taeymans, a reverent Roman Catholic Belgian girl. They were married in Antwerp, Belgium in 1959. Ozzie loved being a part of Liliane’s European culture and family life. They returned to Colombia where their first child, Maureen, was born. They continued to live in Colombia until 1961, when Ozzie joined the Weyerhaeuser Company in Tacoma to oversee their international expansion in Mexico, Central and South America, Japan, the Far East, Australia, and South Africa. In 1976, Ozzie moved his family to Rome, Italy where he was loaned to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a Forest Industries Advisor, working in Italy, France, the U.K., Denmark, Germany, and Tunisia until 1979. In 1980, he went to work for Ekono, a Bellevue-based Finnish consulting and engineering company. He represented Ekono in Finland, Sweden, Spain, Korea, the Fiji Islands, Pakistan, Paraguay, Venezuela, Liberia, Singapore and Tanzania. In 1985, Ozzie established his own consulting business, W.L. Bender Worldwide Consulting to the Forest Industries and continued work on behalf of The World Bank and The Asian Development Bank in Indonesia, New Guinea, Belize, Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal, Zaire, West Africa, Nepal and the Philippines. He retired from his forty-six-year odyssey in 1996.
Ozzie considered it a blessing to meet, live among and work with countless people of diverse cultures in 57 countries. He treasured sharing life overseas with his family in Colombia, Mexico, Rome and the Philippines. His favorite country was Italy.
Every person who met Ozzie was impressed with his incredible memory for people’s names and backgrounds and they loved hearing about his fascinating experiences and the unique cuisines that he enjoyed all over the world. He spent countless afternoons enjoying early-bird salmon dinners and water views at Harbor Lights restaurant and visiting with friends and all of the wonderful servers. They were all so gracious to him and always greeted him with welcoming smiles. He greeted each by name and learned their backgrounds and always asked about their families. These meals continued until he was in his early 90’s.
Ozzie enjoyed running from fourth grade until his doctor restricted him to walking several years ago. He ran the Sound-To-Narrows 10k race for many years. He loved photography and was an avid reader. For the past several years, he wrote his ‘memoirs’ using a laptop and organized dozens of wonderful stories for his daughters and grandchildren to enjoy.
Ozzie believed in honesty, mutual respect and hard work, encouraging his children and grandchildren to learn to be “a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker.” He believed that a goal in life should be to have children. To that end, he believed that a healthy body should be our highest priority.
Ozzie preferred face-to-face networking and communication, so his ‘social network’ included memberships and affiliations with many groups:
University of Michigan Alumni Association, Liberia Pepperbird (Firestone) Forestry Association, International Forestry Association, Colombian Forestry Association, Tacoma Lawn & Tennis Club, Italian Tennis Club (Rome), McChord Officers Club, Spanish, Belgian and Austrian Social Clubs, Weyerhaeuser 20-Year Club, American Forest Products & Paper Association, Tacoma Elks Club, The Explorers Club, Les Voyagers Club and the National Smokejumper Association.
Ozzie is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Liliane, their three daughters, Maureen Levandowski and husband Richard, Nathalie T. Quiroga Bender and husband Manuel B. Quiroga, and Katia Palander, and his four beloved grandchildren, Gabriella and Adriana Levandowski, and Luca and Alec Palander.
In lieu of flowers, Ozzie’s family requests that you plant a nice tree to enjoy in memory of Ozzie’s love of the world’s forests.