Oak Creek - Mayor Dick Bolender is being mourned by family and friends, who remember him as an honest, family loving man and dedicated public servant.
"He'd do anything for his friends and this community," said Doug Seymour, the city's director of community development, who called the progress Bolender made on redevelopment of the Delphi property and lakefront his greatest contributions. "The support he's given those projects will be his legacy. We owe him a debt of thanks."
Bolender, who served three terms as mayor and one year as an alderman before that, died unexpectedly Saturday at the age of 68. Just days before his death, he said he would not seek a fourth term.
Funeral services were held Wednesday at St. Stephen Catholic Church, Oak Creek.
A lot to love
Rich Duchniak, executive director of the Oak Creek Community Center, said that Bolender's help was instrumental in establishing the summer concert series and Christmas parade.
"Quite honestly, he always had the interests of the community at heart," he said. "He'll be dearly, dearly missed."
Oak Creek-Franklin School District Superintendent Sara Burmeister called Bolender "visionary." She said he built relationships to develop the city and bring in business.
"I think back 10 years ago to all the things the community didn't have that it has now," she said, "like the Howell Avenue development from border to border."
He wasn't all business, said City Attorney Larry Haskin and longtime friend.
"You could just see that his family meant everything to him," he said. "I know that his wife, Chris, was just rock-steady.
"I think he loved farming. He seemed like the kind of guy who could fix anything and everything."
Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor said Bolender was "a real good family man. He cared about his city. I think he cared about his country a great deal."
The two mayors worked closely on projects, including the development of 27th Street.
"He was kind of the last of the John Wayne type," Taylor said. "He was a tough guy, but he had a big heart."
In prepared statements, Acting Mayor Steve Scaffidi and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele spoke of the lasting impression Bolender leaves behind.
"His real legacy will be measured by his willingness to engage the public and listen to the residents he served," Scaffidi said.
Abele said Bolender's commitment to the city and his constituents was obvious and commendable.
"He opened the doors of City Hall to Oak Creek citizens through his Meet the Mayor sessions, which symbolized his personal commitment to the city and its residents," the statement said. "A leader on development initiatives in Oak Creek, Dick Bolender's legacy will grow as these projects come to fruition and improve the city for all of its residents."
Before his involvement in city politics, Bolender was a fire and theft investigator for American Family Insurance, where he worked for 36 years.
Born in South Milwaukee, Bolender is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and he served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve during college.
He is survived by wife, Christine (Keyes); daughter, Lisa (Rob) Reid; son, Michael (Kim); and six grandchildren, Brittany, Cindy, Brianna and Robby Reid and Taylor and Madison Bolender.
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