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William J.   "Bill" Bolger

Obituary for William J. "Bill" Bolger

April 16, 1925 - August 27, 2020
McHenry, Illinois | Age 95

Loving Father, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa & Friend


A pillar of the city of McHenry, William J. Bolger (Bill) passed away peacefully at home on August 27, 2020. Bill was born the sixth of ten siblings on April 16, 1925. His parents Thomas A. and Grace (Doherty) Bolger raised their children on the "Irish Prairie" of McHenry that Bill would one day help grow to the city it is today. A 1943 graduate of McHenry Community High School, Bill began his lifetime of leadership as class president for all four years and captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams.

After graduation, Bill enlisted as a United States Marine in WW ll. On May 2, 1945, in Okinawa, Japan, heavy casualties resulted from underestimating the strength of the enemy. Rifle fire struck Bill (and grazed his head) as he attempted to reach cover in a drainage ditch. He continued to use his radio calling for mortar fire until the coast was clear and the wounded could be evacuated. For his heroism, Bill received a Presidential Citation for Bravery in Action and a Purple Heart for his injuries. In September, 1945, the unit traveled to Tientsen, China as occupational forces. One of Bill's fondest memories of being in the Marines was playing and managing "the best" softball team in the Pacific Theatre!

Bill returned to McHenry ready to build his community, family and of course play some more baseball. After a fateful game, he met Chicago-girl Carol Murray while she was summering in the country. Bill and Carol married on October 1, 1949 at St. Patrick's Church. In the same year he would play and manage the McHenry Shamrocks leading them to win the championship in the highly competitive McHenry/Kane County Baseball League. Bill and Carol would go on to have four children: Cathy, Murray, Billy and Candy.

Taking after his father, Illinois State Representative Thomas Bolger, Bill's passion for public service became the foundation of his 44 years as alderman of ward one, resulting in recognition from the Illinois Senate and House. During his time as the longest-serving elected official in the history of McHenry, he sat on numerous committees and oversaw fundamental projects including:

• The creation of the McHenry Library District with the purchase of the Tesch house at the corner of Main and Green Streets. He also served
as President for 17 years.
• The expansion of the original McHenry City Hall.
• The purchase of the Knox Farm Property used for the development and construction of the new Municipal Center.
• The birth of the McHenry Riverwalk.
• The purchase of the Peterson Farm Property and its transformation into the City's largest and most versatile park.
• A charter member and executive director of McHenry's Economic Development Commission 1982-1988.
• The expansion of Bull Valley Road to Charles J Miller Rd.
• The growth of McHenry from 2,748 residents to its present population of over 24,000 plus during his years of service.

For his incredible efforts and impact, Bill received many awards and recognitions including the most prestigious Frank E. Low Award by the McHenry Chamber of Commerce in 1990. Bill also had the honor of serving as the Fiesta Day Parade Marshall in 1998.

As a lifelong democrat, Bill was elected five times as a national delegate to the Democratic National Convention, from 1956 to 1972. He got to know President John F. Kennedy personally as well as IL Governor Adlai Stevenson. Bill and Carol attended the 1961 inaugural ball of JFK in Washington D.C.

When he wasn't managing McHenry as alderman, Bill worked at Illinois Bell for 30+ years. He enjoyed his job as a linesman fixing peoples' landlines and transitioning their phones from rotary to push buttons! His favorite part though was meeting and getting to know residents across the county (securing a few votes along the way). His love for the McHenry way of life was published in the popular weekly column "News & Views" highlighting local history and everyday citizens.

In his downtime, Bill enjoyed gardening enough tomatoes for the whole neighborhood, a good garage sale, spending time with his grandchildren/great-grandchildren, and of course - watching the Cubs.

Bill is preceded in death by his wife and best friend of over 70 years, Carol Murray-Bolger (deceased Dec. 2019), his son Murray Bolger (deceased 2002) and grandson Luke Bolger (deceased 2018). He is survived by his children Cathy Bolger, Billy Bolger (Taffy) and Candace Cleland (David), 6 grandchildren: Kelly Walsh (Tom), Murray Bolger (Kelly), John Bolger, Brian Bolger, Kelsey Cleland and 4 great-grandchildren: Michael Walsh, Megan Walsh, Trinity Bolger and Wynter Bolger.

Visitation will be held from 4 – 7 P.M., on Wednesday, September 2, 2020, at Church of Holy Apostles, 5211W. Bull Valley Road, McHenry, IL 60050. A Funeral Mass will be said for Bill at 11 A.M., on Thursday, September 3, 2020, at St Patrick Catholic Church, 3500 W. Washington in McHenry. The Funeral Mass may be viewed at 11 A.M., by visiting the St. Patrick Church Website. Interment will follow at St. Patrick Countryside Cemetery with military honors.

Memorials may be made in Bill's name to The McHenry Public Library, 809 N. Front Street, McHenry, IL 60050 or to a charity of your choice in Bill's name.

Colonial Funeral Home is assisting the Bolger Family. Any questions, please visit or call 815-385-0063.

The link to the 'Remembering Bill Bolger' video on YouTube:

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • McHenry Public Library
    809 Front St.
    McHenry, IL 60050

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Colonial Funeral Home & Crematory

591 Ridgeview Drive
McHenry, IL 60050
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