Formerly Denison, Iowa
Romaine "Ben" Bendixen, 81, formerly of Denison, died peacefully with family at his side Thursday, June 6, 2019, at Bird House Hospice Home in Johnson County, Iowa. He died of complications from Parkinson's disease.
Services will be 10:30 a.m. today at Huebner Funeral Home in Denison. Burial will be in Crawford Heights Memory Gardens. Visitation will be 9 a.m. until service time today at the funeral home.
Romaine was born at home on Nov. 7, 1937, in Terrill, Iowa, to Howard and Ruby Bendixen. He graduated from Terrill High School and later received degrees from the University of Iowa, including his B.A. with distinction in general science in 1959 and M.D. in 1962, attending medical school on a Navy ROTC scholarship. While in medical school, he was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, a national honor society recognizing top academic achievement in medical school.
Ben served a rotating medical internship at Bethesda Naval Hospital from 1962 to 1963. He then trained in aviation medicine, graduating first in his class as naval flight surgeon in 1963. He served on both the USS America and USS Enterprise aircraft carriers from 1964 to 1966. He then trained as a Navy pilot, receiving his wings in 1967 and was sent to NAS Miramar (aka Top Gun) to train as a fighter pilot. At that time, the Navy trained only one physician per year at Miramar. In the following years, he trained in obstetrics and gynecology at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif., and then in aviation accident investigation at the US Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Va. During 1971-1972, he served as the senior medical officer aboard the USS Ticonderoga, participating in the Apollo 16 lunar recovery mission.
Dr. Ben moved to Denison in 1972, after resigning his commission in the Navy. He first joined a medical practice and then opened his own practice in 1977. In Denison, he practiced family medicine, delivered many babies, and enjoyed caring for generations of families (and eating all the delicious home-baked treats supplied by his patients). He resumed his military service by joining the Sioux City National Guard. While there, he served as a medical officer and jet pilot. On July 19, 1989, Ben was on duty and was one of the first on scene at the Flight 232 plane crash and assisted with rescue, recovery and investigation. He also remained very active in civil aviation as a pilot, instructor, aeromedicine physician and investigator. As a private pilot, he had the opportunity to fly both Pete Rose and George H.W. Bush. He retired from the guard in 1989 and retired from his practice in 2002, moving to Coralville, Iowa in 2008.
Ben believed in service to others. He was a Mason for more than 50 years and also a Shriner. As a member of the Flying Fez, he flew children to Shriner's Hospitals around the country. He was a member of the Optimist Club and American Legion. He was a lifelong churchgoer, most recently attending Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City, where he served on the ecumenical housing board.
During retirement, he continued to enjoy many hobbies. As an avid Hawkeye fan, he attended many University of Iowa sporting events. He also traveled extensively with his wife, Jan. Some of their travel included RV trips throughout the United States, frequently acting as tour guides for friends. Ben managed to visit all 50 states during his lifetime. He continued his love of cycling, completing 16 RAGBRAI bike rides. He flew small aircraft until 2014.
Survivors include his wife, Jan; children, Anne, John, Shannon (Bill), and Mary (Tony); stepchildren, Steven (Deborah), Mark (Michelle), Debra (Jamie), and Martin (Audrey); 17 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and one brother, Charles (Sally).
Ben was preceded in death by his parents; and daughter, Amy.