Scappoose prepares to celebrate, remember Chris Bendle
Twenty years was just not enough.
Scappoose's Chris Bendle, who died in a car crash on May 28, was just 20 years old when he passed.
For Bendle himself, for his family, for his friends, for his teammates and classmates at Portland Community College, for his girlfriend and for Scappoose as a whole, 20 years just wasn't enough.
Bendle, a star basketball player at Scappoose who graduated in 2018, left a lasting legacy in his hometown, a place that he loved and planned to call home for the rest of his life.
"He loved it here in Scappoose. This was his home," said Chris' mother Lisa Bendle. "He wanted to someday get married and raise his kids here and be a part of the community because he loved it. He loved all the people here in the community."
'Basketball was clearly his first love'
Bendle got a lot of love back from his community, too, much of it related to his love of sports. Growing up, Bendle played T-ball, soccer, baseball, basketball and one year of football, but basketball was clearly his first love. Indeed, he started his hoop career on a Kiwanis-sponsored team coached by his dad, Greg Bendle.
He kept working and improving through middle school and high school, eventully winning a berth on the Scappoose varsity team as a junior. Continuing his efforts to grow on the court, Bendle worked with Roots Sports Academy and Shoot360 to set the stage for his senior season.
And what a season it was. Bendle, at 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, exploded to finish second in the Cowapa League in scoring (23.5 points per game) and first in rebounding (10.5 rebounds per game) in the 2017-18 season. Thanks to those efforts, Bendle was named first-team all-league and earned a spot on the North OACA all-star team.
"He was only (6 feet tall) so for him to do the things that he did, and to accomplish what he did, he put a tremendous amount of hard work and time, lots of time, into the craft of basketball," Lisa Bendle said. "He had an excitement that he brought to the game that was not like anyone else.
"He actually had groupies — older gentleman that just love to watch the game of basketball that would follow him to each of his games, away games as well as home games. We did not know them, but they introduced themselves to us at the end of the season to let us know that they thought he was one of the most fantastic players to watch and they came to all his games."
That set the table for his college experience when he walked on and earned a roster spot with the Portland Community College men's basketball team.
"Chris was thrilled to hear … he had earned a position on the (PCC) team," Lisa Bendle said. "(He) was known for his hustle and toughness on the court, along with his drive to achieve and win."
"He was an extremely hard-working athlete who played the game with tremendous confidence," said PCC head coach Tony Broadous. "He was such a valuable member of our 2018-19 team because of his hustle and toughness. … He had unparalleled confidence in himself that made him a great competitor."
Responsible, funny, open-minded
While he may have been best known for his prodigious basketball skills, Bendle was known for much, much more.
According to the people who knew him best, Bendle was responsible beyond his years, possessor of a great sense of humor and open-minded as well. His boss at Fred Meyer, where he worked after high school, said Bendle was the only employee of his age that never missed work, never took a sick day and never took a vacation day.
"He was very responsible, very hard working … very driven," Lisa Bendle said. "You knew when he put his mind to it, he was going to make it happen. And it was like that in everything that he did — in school, in basketball and in work."
Regarding his son's open-mindedness, Greg Bendle said that while Chris had plenty strong opinions of his own, he was always willing to listen to others and engage in conversation.
"People have always said he seemed like an old soul. And I think he was very open to listening to things — he may not have agreed, but he listened."
— Greg Bendle
"I think (one of the best things about him was) his willingness to listen to new ideas," Greg Bendle said. "People have always said he seemed like an old soul. And I think he was very open to listening to things — he may not have agreed, but he listened."
"Chris was an exceptional basketball player, but I'll remember him more for the type of person he was off the court," said Roots Sports Academy coach Sully Carter. "He was humble, kind and possessed a work ethic that many never achieve in a lifetime."
To honor Chris
As hard as it is, Bendle's family and those closest to him — including his girlfriend of two years, Kaylee Wagner — are trying to learn how to live in a world without him.
"He's on our brain 24/7. It's hard, incredibly hard," Lisa Bendle said. "I mean, obviously, this is going to be the hardest thing that we're ever going to have to deal with in our whole life."
Nothing can change that, but the Bendle family has plans to both memorialize Chris and create a scholarship that will live on for years to come.
Further, people can contribute to the Christopher Bendle Basketball Scholarship fund at Wauna Federal Credit Union. The scholarship will benefit local basketball players in pursuit of their college educations and basketball dreams.
"I know that he would want our young people to have the chance that he did," Lisa Bendle said, noting that Chris benefitted from the Oregon Promise grant. "I know that he would love it, to know that somebody else was benefiting from a scholarship for the love of the sport like he had and to be able to gain a great education."
Forever a Scappoose kid
Along with his accomplishments on the basketball court and the impact he had on the world as a whole, Bendle just flat loved his hometown.
"I think that's why he enjoyed his job so much — because he got to see everybody," Lisa Bendle said. "He got to stop and talk to them and find out what's going on with them. He was a Scappoose kid and he will forever be a Scappoose kid."
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