Former Grand Rapids mayor Boelens dies

Robert Boelens is shown in October 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former Grand Rapids mayor has died at the age of 92.

Robert “Bob” Boelens, lifetime resident of the city, hailed from a family of 12, husband of 67 years to Marion, passed away at midday Thursday from complications due to a fall and declining health  at St. Mary’s Hospital surrounded by loved ones.

Boelens had been mayor from 1970 to 1971.

Earning his first dollar as a newsboy, he was a graduate of South High School, followed by military service in the US Marine Corps 323 Platoon in Pearl Harbor, rank of staff sergeant; spent 20 years as Chief Building Inspector for Grand Rapids and held the same position in Kentwood for 3 years; was the “founding father” of the Building Inspectors Association of Greater Grand Rapids, known specifically for his outstanding contributions to the field of code enforcement for Metro.

While mayor, Bob and his wife Marion christened a new class of gunboat, the USS Grand Rapids, in Tacoma, Wash., a 165-foot destroyer. He helped break ground for race relations, resulting in the funding of a two-building Sheldon Neighborhood Complex.

Boelens ran an unsuccessful bid for the 5th District seat of former President Gerald R. Ford.

Most recently, as a surviving World War II veteran, he traveled to Washington, DC as an invited guest of Mid-Michigan Honor Flight, visiting the WWII Veterans Memorial and also connecting locally with high school students to honor those who have served our country.

Bob was also a member of the National Association of Power Engineers, Building Officials Conference of America and Metro Inspection Services.

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