Bob Bolen was a servant in the city he loved

01/06/2014 5:45 PM

01/06/2014 5:46 PM

“Dost thou love life? Then don’t squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

— Benjamin Franklin

If not wasting time is indeed a way to measure one’s love of life, then no one loved it more than former Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen, a tireless public figure who spent much time serving his beloved city and the entire North Texas region.

Bolen, who died Monday morning at age 87, was the epitome of a public servant, noted for working extra-long hours during his record nine years as mayor.

But his service to the people of Fort Worth didn’t begin when he was elected to the City Council in 1979, and it did not end when he left public office in 1991.

Most of his adult life was devoted to service, from his time in the U.S. Navy — for which he interrupted his studies at Texas A&M University — to his role on numerous boards and commissions after his “retirement.”

This Chicago native was a businessman noted for selling toys and greeting cards, but noted more for being a passionate salesman of his city, helping to broker deals that brought new business and development to Cowtown.

Under his leadership, Fort Worth became home to Burlington Northern, Alliance Airport, the American Airlines maintenance facility, the University of Texas at Arlington Advanced Robotics Research Institute and a U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing plant.

While he was mayor, downtown was transformed through public-private partnerships, and Fort Worth developed a model Sister Cities program that now includes eight sister cities, in Italy, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Hungary, Mexico, Swaziland and China.

Bolen loved people, and he was never too busy to offer advice or support, whether to students in his role as teacher and adviser to the chancellor at Texas Christian University, young fledgling business owners, politicians (of either party) or public service organizations.

His father, who moved the family more than 20 times as manager for a chain of five-and-dime stores, had a saying that Bolen adopted as his motto: “Always leave a place better than you found it.”

Bob Bolen certainly lived up to that maxim, as Fort Worth is a much better place because he worked so diligently at it.

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