Hundreds say goodbye to Bob Bolen, Fort Worth’s longest-serving mayor

01/11/2014 5:28 PM

01/13/2014 1:20 PM

In a light-filled church that overlooks the downtown he helped revitalize, friends and family bid goodbye Saturday to Bob Bolen, Fort Worth’s longest-serving mayor and a patriarch of the city.

Bolen died Monday at his home in Fort Worth. He was 87.

Hundreds of mourners filled the pews of First Presbyterian Church in downtown to recall Bolen’s legacy of service and his unwavering commitment to the city and its people.

“Simply put, Bob Bolen put a smile on the face of Fort Worth,” TCU Chancellor Emeritus William E. Tucker said in a eulogy.

Outside the church, uniformed police officers and firefighters stood at attention. During the funeral, mourners sang How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace, as Bolen’s flag-draped coffin rested in front of the sanctuary.

Known for working 60-hour weeks, Bolen served as mayor from 1982 to 1991, helping to guide numerous major developments, including the redevelopment of the city’s downtown, creation of Alliance Airport and completion of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing plant.

Bolen owned a toy store called Bolen’s Toy Palace, eventually adding a line of bicycles known as Bolen’s Bike World. The entrepreneur also owned multiple greeting card stores across the state.

Children inspired Bolen, and he dedicated much of his life nurturing young people, the Rev. Ed Shipman, a longtime friend of the Bolen family, told the mourners.

He spent decades volunteering at the North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill Farm in Granbury, where he served as a mentor to many children.

“Bob Bolen lived his faith far more than he ever talked about it,” Shipman said.

After leaving City Hall in 1991, saying he wanted to slow down, Bolen became senior adviser to the chancellor at TCU.

“He received the greatest satisfaction at TCU not dealing with chancellors, but in interacting with students,” Tucker said. “And he had a legion of admirers on campus.”

Robert “Bob” Eugene Bolen was born April 10, 1926, in Chicago, the oldest son of Milford Louis Bolen and Beatrice Pinkerton Bolen.

As a child, he moved more than 20 times for his father’s work as a manager of the McCrory Stores five-and-dime chain.

Bolen served in the Navy as a gunnery officer and earned a degree in business administration from Texas A&M University. In 1952, he married Fran Ciborowski, and the two decided to put down roots in Fort Worth.

Bolen loved Fort Worth and remained committed to helping the city grow and prosper, friends said. Through his work, Tucker said, he inspired others to serve.

“A mighty oak has fallen,” Tucker said, “and a thousand seeds have scattered.”

To Jamie Manning, Bolen’s granddaughter, her grandfather was a man with a sense of humor and unique charm who took his grandchildren to Washington, D.C., and could even be talked into giving her a pedicure.

“He was the most remarkable man I knew,” Manning eulogized. “He lived to entertain and to be entertained. To call him an extrovert would be a major understatement.”

From an early age, Bolen followed a personal philosophy to “always leave a place better than you found it," said Don Cosby, his foster son.

“You can rest well,” Cosby said, “knowing you did in fact leave this world a much better place.”

Survivors include his wife, Fran Bolen; a daughter, Terrie Manning; two sons, Randy Bolen and Ron Bolen; a foster son, Don Cosby; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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