OAK CREEK - Former Mayor Dick Bolender has been memorialized at Oak Creek’s Drexel Town Square, a project which he is given some credit for getting started, with the plaza now bearing his name.
However, according to his kids, it wasn’t the projects but the people that were most important to their father.
“What I keep hearing from people isn’t about Drexel Town Square and the idea, but it was about people,” said Oak Creek Police Capt. Michael Bolender. “Many worked on Drexel Town Square and other projects; his legacy is more with the people and how he made people feel important and special.”
Dick Bolender died suddenly Dec. 10, 2011.
“He was a great dad. He was hard on us, had high expectations for us,” said Bolender’s daughter, Lisa Reid. “He had a firm hand but a tender heart.”
Reid said family was most important to him, and he treated a lot of people like family. Her brother agreed.
“I grew up, and I wasn’t special,” Michael Bolender said. “I was his son and special to him, but we were a team.”
He recalled a time when his father helped a family whose basement flooded.
“He didn’t know them, they were just someone in Oak Creek that needed help,” he said.
Additionally, Bolender's door was open to those in need and those helping those in need during the holidays.
“If Dad met you and you didn’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving, you were going to be at our house,” Michael Bolender said. “Dad would invite cops in that worked Thanksgiving and Christmas and had meals for them.”
Richard Bolender Plaza
Reid said it was appropriate to name the gathering place, the plaza, after Bolender because he wanted to bring people together. She said he wasn’t one to put buddies on committees; instead he wanted the best and brightest, diversifying them with the end goal of making the community a place to come together.
“It’s wonderful to walk up to city hall and the library and see his name is really big,” Reid said, referring to the plaque in front of the civic center. “It’s his mark; his legacy is in our children, but also left on Drexel Town Square.”
The plaque includes with a phrase Reid said her father often closed speeches with: “God bless you, God bless Oak Creek, and God bless America.”
Michael Bolender said he was notified of the honor by Mayor Steve Scaffidi, who asked whether the plaza dedication would be something the family would like to do.
He said he felt his dad would be honored and “get a kick out of it.”
Reid wanted to thank the aldermen and mayor for honoring her father in this way.
“We greatly appreciate it,” she said.
The modern Oak Creek
Michael Bolender said his father believed in development, but in “smart growth and development” versus just building for the sake of growing.
“He wanted Oak Creek to remember its heritage and roots but not to be stuck in it,” he said. “He was about family, country and community. He really loved Oak Creek and wanted it to be something special.”
Reid said he would have been proud of what has been accomplished at Drexel Town Square, but at the same time asking what the city can do next.