Brookings, S.D. — Don Bender, who founded Falcon Plastics in 1975 with three employees and five machines and saw it grow to a molding company with three locations, died Jan. 3. He was 85.
Bender was born in Philadelphia and after serving in the U.S. Air Force landed in Minneapolis with his wife, Carol Landgraf. He then studied engineering at the University of Minnesota. After serving as an engineering manager and working in Toronto, Bender and his family decided to jump into running their own business and moved to Brookings to launch Falcon Plastics.
Falcon's key markets are electronic, medical, automotive/industrial, consumer and sporting goods, and construction. It now has two locations in South Dakota — in Brookings and Madison — and another site in Lexington, Tenn. It posted $41 million in sales in the most recent Plastics News ranking of injection molders, with another $1.3 million in blow molding sales.
"His hard work and willingness to take a risk is what laid the foundation for what Falcon Plastics has become today," his obituary noted.
Falcon Plastics now has 300 employees.
Bender retired in 2003 but remained involved with the business. Son Jay Bender is now president and son Guy Bender is chief operating officer, with two third-generation family members also working with the company.
In addition, Bender worked closely with Teen Challenge of the Dakotas in Brookings.
He is survived by his wife, Carol, and his children.
A memorial service in Brookings will be scheduled at a later time. His family requests donations in his name to Teen Challenge of the Dakotas or the Don and Carol Bender Scholarship at the South Dakota State University Foundation.