Oak Creek mayor Bolender dies at 68

Dec. 11, 2011

Dick Bolender, who announced just last week that he would not seek a fourth term as Oak Creek mayor, died unexpectedly Saturday night.

He was 68.

"He wasn't just a mayor to me or a co-worker. He was a personal friend, and I'm really going to miss the guy," said Ald. Michael Toman, who took over Bolender's seat in the 4th Aldermanic District after Bolender was elected mayor.

"His legacy in the city is, he's probably one of the most honest politicians I've known in my life. A good honest city servant and a good family man. Those are the things I'll remember," Toman said Sunday. "He said what he believed and he believed what he said. You never had to question where he stood on issues. Whether you agreed with him or not, he took a stand. He was that kind of man. He wasn't wishy-washy."

A proud Republican, Bolender wasn't afraid to speak his mind but still listened to other people speak theirs at regular "Meet the Mayor" sessions at City Hall. He started the tradition in 2003 as a way to get residents more involved in the community and to find out what's on their minds. He had taken a similar approach when he was first elected as an alderman in 2000, meeting residents in their living rooms to talk over coffee.

Ald. Tom Michalski of the 6th District said Bolender had seemed cheerful and in a good mood when he saw him at his "Meet the Mayor" session Saturday morning.

Just a few hours later, Bolender was sitting at home in front of the computer while his wife, Christine, made Christmas cookies. When she came back five minutes later, he wasn't breathing, Bolender's daughter, Lisa Reid, said Sunday.

The Oak Creek Fire Department responded to the mayor's home in the 3700 block of E. Ryan Road at 8:36 p.m. Saturday, Battalion Chief Mike Kressuk said. He said first responders provided emergency medical services and transported Bolender to Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee. Bolender was pronounced dead in the emergency room.

Reid said that Bolender did not have any heart problems, and that the family does not know the cause of his death.

Bolender had said he was not going to seek re-election in April as mayor because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

"He just felt, 'Look, I've been doing this for three terms as mayor, one year as an alderman. It's time to do other things,' " Michalski said. "He's got a nice extended family and wanted to spend time with grandkids. You want to retire while you still got your health. Some of these positions are time-consuming. For him at least, it was just that he wanted to spend time with his wife, who he just adored, and his grandkids."

Bolender several times indicated that he didn't care much for titles, and that his most important title was "Grandpa" for his six grandchildren. He taught his granddaughter and "partner," Brittany, to ride and took trips on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with his son, daughter and their spouses. Reid said her father wanted to run for public office to create a better community but always put his family first.

"He wanted people to be able to go out to a nice restaurant with their families and go shopping and not have to drive to Southridge. In the past, you couldn't buy a birthday present here. That's where he started," Reid said.

He worked on the redevelopment of the Delphi property and the creation of a library in City Hall.

"We were proud of the man he was. He led by example for us," Reid said. "He called it like he saw it. If he said he was going to do something, his handshake and his word was as good as a contract. He wasn't a politician. He was a citizen who cared about his community and wanted to make it better."

Council President Steve Scaffidi, who had announced his intentions to run for Bolender's mayoral seat, said Bolender acted as a mentor for him since he started serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"He brought me in and talked about issues. I felt he mentored me as far as what needed to be done as an elected official," Scaffidi said. "He was just a great guy to spend time with. He was a military guy. He worked as an insurance company claims guy for a while. There was a lot of flavor in his approach to life."

Bolender enjoyed tending to the horses and cows on his farm - one of the few remaining in the sprawling city - and helped teach Scaffidi about farming, Scaffidi said.

Bolender's death came as a shock for many in the city.

"It all happened to fast. It's pretty sad for the city and for his family," Scaffidi said. "The message is, don't wait to enjoy life. Do it now."

Bolender was a graduate of South Milwaukee High School and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

He is survived by his wife; a son, Oak Creek Police Capt. Michael Bolender; and Reid, who is a school psychologist at Deerfield Elementary School. Bolender and his wife had been sweethearts for 53 years and married 45. They worked together nearly every day on their farm or their home, Reid said.

"She was the love of his life. She's missing him terribly," Reid said.

Bolender's funeral will be Wednesday - on his wife's birthday. Before that, Reid said, he'll give back to his community one last time by donating his organs.

"He was always giving to others and we figured that's what he'd want," Reid said.

Scaffidi said he plans to meet Monday with City Administrator Gerald Peterson and City Attorney Lawrence Haskin to work out a succession plan. Scaffidi said his understanding is that he, as Common Council president, would take over administrative duties currently performed by the mayor.

A general election for the mayor's seat is set for April 3.

Funeral arrangements

Visitation for Oak Creek Mayor Dick Bolender will be from noon to 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at St. Stephen Catholic Church, 1441 W. Oakwood Road, Oak Creek. A funeral Mass will follow at 6 p.m. An honor guard from the Oak Creek Fire and Police departments will be present at Bolender's funeral and honor him with a 21-gun salute.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.

Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Community Watch

» The Prairie School to host event on gifted children 11/27

» Plans for Alyson Dudek ice skating center move forward with donation 11/25

» Missing Franklin man found dead on Nov. 24 near Oak Leaf Bike Trail 11/25

» Police identify body found near bike trail as missing Franklin man 11/25

» Oak Creek girls basketball team looks to dominate with depth 11/24

» Wisconsin DOT: South 27th Street is open for business during holiday season 11/24

» Meijer to provide food for Oak Creek's annual 'Evening of Blessings' 11/24

» Greendale School Board Academy to be held for prospective spring election candidates 11/24

» Franklin girls basketball team has talent, looks for depth 11/24

» Oak Creek pulls away late to beat Brookfield Central, 59-46 11/21

» Oak Creek 8th graders 'view the world' as journalists in writing unit, 4 essays to be posted online 11/19

» Updated state championship game rankings of area prep football teams and players 11/19

» Franklin's $37 million budget has no tax change 11/18

» Rawson Avenue closure beginning Nov. 18 11/18

» Cudahy man found dead near hunting tree stand in Adams County 11/18

» Greendale trustees raise tax levy 1 percent, bump up budget by 45 percent to construct fire station 11/18

» Coming off good season, will Oak Creek football team dare to be great? 11/17

» Nine Oak Creek athletes sign letters of intent 11/17

» Franklin, Oak Creek swimmers finish well at state 11/17

» Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce to host social on Nov. 24 11/17

» Oak Creek Culver's to host annual Kids2Kids Toy Drive 11/16

» Hales Corners 2016 proposed budget sees 'nominal increase' 11/16

» Legacy Spa & Salon to host networking event on Nov. 7 in Hales Corners 11/16

» Greendale's first fire engine, which entered service in 1938, returns home 11/16

» Videos: Arrowhead stuns Franklin in epic football finish 11/14

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss



Local Business Directory