Karl-Erik Bender, 87, dies

Columbus, OH — Swedish owner Karl-Erik Bender, 87, who won the 1992 Hambletonian with Alf Palema and also built the Palema Training Center in Vero Beach, Fla., died Jan. 9, 2022, in Sweden after a long illness.

In addition to winning the Hambletonian, Mr. Bender owned Elitlopp winners Gidde Palema (2004) and Torvald Palema (2009).

Mr. Bender’s parents ran a farm with a country store and together with his brother, Arne, Karl-Erik helped in the business. His experiences at the farm eventually led him to buy a roof tile machine and it launched his construction business in 1960. Today, Benders manufactures a variety of construction projects for use in Sweden and Europe, among them roof tiles and concrete prefabricated materials.

The same year he founded his company, Mr. Bender bought the trotting mare Palema Fibber. She was successful on the track but suffered an injury which forced her retirement. She was bred and thus the resulting foals included the word Palema, which also became Mr. Bender’s stable name.

After his U.S. racing career, Alf Palema was relocated to Sweden where he stood at stud. His most accomplished offspring are Gidde Palema, Torvald Palema, Colombian Necktie and Gazza Degato.

Mr. Bender worked with his son, Ove, in the family business and also shared his interest in trotting with his son.

In an interview with Sweden’s Trav Ronden publication, Ove Bender shared that his father had suffered a heart problem three weeks ago and was not expected to live very much longer, but his mind stayed good and the day before he died, “We watched a race…and he even managed to be annoyed at a French driver who drove badly.”

Ove said that often while talking about their construction business, “we quickly slipped over to the horses.”

In addition to his son, Mr. Bender is survived by a daughter, Helen, and eight grandchildren.

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