Family, Community Mourn Loss of Bolender
Oak Creek mayor unexpectedly passed away Saturday at his home.
Oak Creek Mayor Dick Bolender died Saturday at his home at the age of 68.
Bolender reportedly collapsed Saturday afternoon, possibly of a heart attack. He was pronounced dead later that day.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Christine; his son, Michael (Kim) Bolender; daughter Lisa (Rob) Reid; and six grandchildren.
Bolender was in his third term as mayor and recently announced he would retire in April.
The news traveled quickly through the community Sunday, with many expressing shock and sadness. At least publicly, Bolender had never alluded to any health problems.
Oak Creek Common Council President Steve Scaffidi is set to be installed as acting mayor. He said he is meeting with city officials Monday to go over the succession plan.
Scaffidi said that he had just talked with Bolender Saturday morning during his monthly "Meet the Mayor" meetings at Oak Creek City Hall.
There, he seemed upbeat about the prospect of his retirement allowing him to spend more time with his wife, Chris, and his children and grandchildren, Scaffidi said.
Scaffidi said that to him, that is the saddest part about his death - he never got to enjoy that new-found free time.
He added, "He was a resident who cared enough about the city to put his name out there and run for mayor and do what sometimes is a difficult job."
Oak Creek officials were talking with the Bolender family Sunday and may release some kind of statement. Bolender's son, Michael, is a captain with the Oak Creek Police Department.
Bolender served as Oak Creek mayor for the previous nine years and spent one year before that on the Common Council.
With the city around him rapidly growing and losing its agricultural roots, Bolender still maintained his farm near the corner of Fitzsimmons and Ryan, one of the last remaining farms in Oak Creek.
But despite his personal background, Bolender consistently rejected complaints about the city becoming too urbanized and said often that Oak Creek needed to embrace change. Instead of fighting it, Bolender believed the city needed to figure out the best way to handle it.
He was a staunch and proud Republican who often listed U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker as personal friends. In his last interview with Oak Creek Patch, he said that holding the line on taxes the last four years was one of his best accomplishments.
But he could also be surprisingly progressive. He showed it in his determination to land more business development for the city, particularly in recent months with his efforts toward the Delphi redevelopment project.
That he never minced words and always said exactly what was on his mind earned him more than a few enemies around town, but it also earned him a lot of respect. He won three terms as mayor; in an unscientific Oak Creek Patch poll last week, his “approval rating” was at 66 percent.
But the position of mayor was certainly not an end-all, be-all job for him. He said last week that he "had absolutely no problem walking away from this."
In discussing his decision not to run for re-election, Bolender recounted a person asking him,"Would he miss having the title of mayor?"
"I've never been much for titles. I don't need this job for the title," Bolender said.
"You know what the most important title I have is? Grandpa."