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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 .

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 .

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 , 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; 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."

Dawn Lackowski December 12, 2011 at 11:52 AM
A long time ago I worked at Cupid and Dick used to come in everyday.. he called me little heefer and as much as that just isn't right , lol, I didn't mind it was Dick!! You will so be missed... rest in peace Dick..
Patriot December 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Mr Bolender used to frequent the youth football games on many occasions! I was impressed with his involvement not just as a Mayor but as a real person who really cared. Great Man!! Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mayor Bolender.
Sherry December 13, 2011 at 12:23 AM
So, so sad to hear the news of Mayor Bolender's passing. I first met Mayor Bolender under an embarrassing circumstance a couple years back. I was showing my kids the deer in his farm field on Fitzsimmons when I misjudged the snowy ditch and my van ended up on it's side. I called my dad to tow me out.....his truck also ended up on it's side in the ditch. The Mayor came out to help and had a good laugh. He successfully got us out with his huge truck. I stopped by his house with a thank you gift and ended up getting stuck in his driveway and had to be pushed out! He teased me relentlessly and invited my family to stop by any time so my little ones could ride his horses. We actually took him (and granddaughter Brittany) up on this offer several times. He shared great stories, taught us about the cows and horses and let the kids clean up the barn (ha). He was a compassionate, honest, solid and generous soul. I feel blessed that we got the opportunity to know him for just a short time. My heart goes out to his family, friends and the community. May God shine his light upon you and fill your hearts with great memories of this great man. Sherry DuChateau (Alexa, Easton, Bret)
Margaret Coonan December 13, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Tom and I loved Dick as well. I am still in shock. My heart breaks for his family, and what a huge loss to Oak Creek.
Christine Lewandowski December 13, 2011 at 05:12 PM
I worked with Dick in the Insurance Industry in the early 90's. He banned me from reminding him that he had been with the company longer than I had been alive. He helped me move, pin-striped my car and was always on the lookout for a decent man for me to date. I loved that he referred to Chris at his "beautiful bride" whenever he spoke of her. Great man who will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his family.

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