Marcia Bender, Nevin’s daughter, who still lives near the camp, sent a message to Bethany Mennonite Church saying that Nevin had passed away. As part of her email she wrote “He visited with mom in the afternoon, ate dinner, then died at the table – very peaceful and quiet. I got to spend three lovely days with him earlier this month. To have been able to talk with him and sing with him and do puzzles with him was such a privilege, and it makes me smile and remember his loving, peaceful and steady presence.”
As the first director here at BBC, Nevin left his mark in many ways. The core of the camp program still looks similar to what he created including community and fun and rustic camp living. We will highlight some of the stories about him from Stories From The First 50 Years: Volume 1 in a coming blog post.
Nevin James Bender, 81, died on July 22, 2019 at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. Nevin was born on July 13, 1938, the son of Nevin V. and Esther Lauver Bender.
Nevin grew up on a small dairy farm in Greenwood DE. At a very early age he was eager to learn the skills needed on the farm and spent many long days planting and harvesting baby lima beans. Nevin attended Greenwood Mennonite School and graduated from Greenwood High School in 1956. He was the director of the Greenwood Mennonite Youth Chorus and was an active youth leader and congregational music leader at Greenwood Mennonite Church.
On June 24, 1961 Nevin married Lourene Godshall. They celebrated 58 years together this year.
Nevin graduated from Eastern Mennonite College in 1961 and went on to earn a Master of Divinity at Hartford Seminary. He became pastor at Bethany Mennonite Church in Vermont, and a few years later he established Bethany Birches Camp where he was also the camp director for 15 years. The camp continues to this day.
Nevin’s pastoral career ended in 1979 when he suffered a brain aneurysm. He and his family moved to Harrisonburg, VA in 1983 where he began working in the maintenance department of Eastern Mennonite College. This second career lasted for the next 25 years; he was known as a positive, reliable, and energetic member of the grounds crew. Nevin and Lourene were active participants at Broad Street Mennonite Church, where Nevin was on the music team, playing guitar and leading music.
Following Nevin’s retirement from EMC, he spent 10 years at Friendship Industries, working in contract packaging, and did volunteer work at Gift and Thrift.
From lima beans to pastoring to groundskeeping to volunteer work, Nevin demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to his evolving capacities, reinventing himself repeatedly to take advantage of his skills and talents.
Nevin was preceded in death by siblings Lura Benner, Titus Bender, and Mildred Bender. He is survived by his wife Lourene Godshall Bender; siblings Miriam Jantzi, Paul Bender, Hilda Swartz, Emma Myers, and Don Bender; children Nevin Bender, Conrad Bender, Marcia Bender and Angela Bender; grandchildren Miguel Garcia-Bender, Nikki Garcia-Bender, Marisol Garcia-Bender, Trinity Bender, Anna Hepler, Adaija Bender, Calef Hepler, and Shanta Bender.
The family will host a time of visitation on Monday, July 29 at 3:00 PM, followed by a memorial service at 4:00 PM at the Detweiler Auditorium at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, 1501 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Bethany Birches Camp, 2610 Lynds Hill Road, Plymouth, VT, 05056 or make a donation on their website: www.bethanybirches.org