The Bolmgren family has deep roots in the Brookside neighborhood of St. Louis Park, and has contributed much to the civic life of the city.
Herman Julius Bolmgren was born on November 1, 1885, in Minneapolis. Information from census and directory records help track his progress:
1900: Listed as Julius, he lived with his grandparents in Minneapolis and at age 14 worked as a day laborer.
1906: Married Clara Hardin on November 14.
1911: Clara died on January 12.
1912: Lived on Washington Ave. in Minneapolis and worked as a clerk at Wyman, Partridge & Co.
1914: Married Clara’s sister Selma Lydia Hardin on January 3. Selma was born on March 27, 1891.
1917: Foreman at the Northwest Knitting Co., which became Munsingwear
1918: Came to St. Louis Park
1920: Lived on Aurora Ave. This was probably the house at 4088 Vernon Ave. [aka 4050, 4092] across 41st Street from Brookside School
1921: Listed as living in Brookside
1930: Lived at 4046 Brookside Ave.
1935-1954: Lived at 4050 Vernon.
1954: St. Luke’s Church bought the property to expand, so the family moved to 4140 Webster, behind Brookside School
1959: Herman died on January 15 at the age of 73.
1976: Selma died on November 16.
Bolmgren served on the City Council as the second ward alderman from 1922-1931 and again from 1946 to his death. His work for the village and city is well described in a January 22, 1959, article in the Dispatch:
Herman Bolmgren, Park’s Financial “Watchdog,” Dies
Services Conducted Monday for Senior Councilman, Prominent City Resident
Last week St. Louis Park’s citadel of public caution died in his sleep.
The legion of friends of City Councilman Herman Bolmgren remember most his tight clutch on the city’s purse strings. A quick man with his own money at post meeting lunches, he bared his teeth as a financial watch dog when the taxpayers’ cash was at stake.
Not so, though, when he bought the city’s future. Nor when he was convinced an expenditure now would save a larger one later. Politics was his life … but in 1928 he pushed through the municipal water system when he knew it would cost him the next election. Three years later the ground water dropped below the level of shallow individual wells and his judgment was vindicated while he was alive to know it.
“They cussed him a great deal then, but it was about that time the city really stared to grow,” Ira Vraalstad, water superintendent, recalls.
Mr. Vraalstad and a good many other city employees were more than co-workers with Councilman Bolmgren. some were lodge brothers, some were fellow members of the volunteer fire department in the days when Park was a village, and some found frequent occasion to argue with him when his inflexible beliefs conflicted with theirs.
To all he was a friend. His handclasp was just as friendly after an oblique criticism by a reporter. His joviality was just as evident after losing an arduous battle over the council table. And failure in any of his motions meant only a shrug of the shoulders and support for his winning opponents.
As ranking member of council, he frequently presided during the mayor’s absence. he ruled with an iron gavel and, at three quarters of a century, took a youth’s pride in his grasp of parliamentary procedure.
He never lost touch with youth, either. His tall, erect figure was familiar at high school football and basketball games. He played golf and still was bowling at an age when most men prepare for retirement.
He was dependable with regular habits and in later years found it difficult to sleep in the morning until others wakened. The foible of the 4 a.m. awakening was one known to all his friends but none made fun of it. His retirement two years ago [from Munsingwear] only meant giving all his time to the city.
He was the cudgel bearing representative of the second ward but a complaint from any area would find him in that quarter, checking up. His view was the long one and his loyalty was dedicated to the whole.
Herman’s was a lively wit. His gravity was of deliberation. His was an honesty which even intense opposition never dimmed nor cowed. His intelligence helped build a city.
Mr. Bolmgren was one of the fortunate few who could see the fruition of their life’s work before death. He lived in the shadow of his most lasting monument – the city of St. Louis Park.
Bolmgren was the last president of the Brookside Improvement Association. He was also a member of Aldersgate Methodist Church, Chamber of Commerce, a Past Master of the Paul Revere Masonic Lodge, and a director of Park Plaza State Bank.
Herman’s children were:
- June C. Jenson, born in 1908
- Frances McNellis, born in 1910
- Lois Chermak, born in 1915
- Eleanor Rekdahl, born in 1917
- Robert Bolmgren, born in 1924
Robert N. Bolmgren was born in 1923 in St. Louis Park. He married his wife Shirley in 1951, and they were one of the first families to live in Meadowbrook Manor. They lived in a fine home on Nevada for awhile but missed Brookside, so in 1956 they bought a house at 4070 Brunswick, where they lived until 1982. Robert was on the St. Louis Park Fire Department for 35 years and was a member of the VFW. He died on October 6, 1994. Shirley continues to live in Minnetonka, but still attends Wooddale Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park.
Robert and Shirley had four children who all graduated from St. Louis Park High School: Suzanne (Thomas) in 1970, twins Gary Bolmgren and Gay (Armstrong) in 1973, and Nancy (Nies) in 1980.
Suzanne married her high school sweetheart David Thomas in 1973 and the two raised three children on the 2400 block of Cavell Avenue near the Minneapolis Golf Course. All three of their children graduated from St. Louis Park High School: Matthew in 1996, and twins Jennifer and Jason in 1999. Suzanne was a dedicated volunteer in the St. Louis Park schools while her children were growing up before accepting a position in the school district’s Human Resources Department in 1991.
Gary Bolmgren and wife Lynn raised a daughter Jenna and son Daniel in Richfield. Gay and Barry Armstrong raised two daughters, Kim and Molly, in Golden Valley. Nancy and Dave Nies have two daughters, Ele and Lydia, and live in Rogers.