As the village leaders finished their smoke break, I walked back into McArthur Village Hall and saw Councilman Bolender holding court.
In front of him were a handful of local Boy Scouts who attended the meeting to earn a civics badge.
David Bolender, known by many who grew up in Vinton County simply as “Coach,” had a lifetime of conversations like this over the course of his career as a teacher, principal, coach and athletic director. After he retired from the Vinton County Local School District, he continued those conversations as a public official.
I arrived in McArthur as a reporter in 2013 and got to know Bolender from his work on McArthur Village Council. Being a councilman is often a thankless job. It involves navigating lengthy debates about municipal finances, parsing through reports from various department heads and a host of other reasons which help to explain why the group takes so many smoke breaks on Main Street.
Bolender had a great presence on Council. He took his job seriously, bringing a keen mind to every meeting. He also had a great sense of humor and an acute sense of when to use it when the room seemed in desperate need of some levity. More than a few times I watched him serve as peacemaker, keeping the proceedings on track when things got a little heated.
The longer I worked in Vinton County — and the more I delved into the Courier’s news archives — the more I got to learn and appreciate the full impact Bolender had on this community.
He worked with countless students as an educator and school leader. He coached football at McArthur High School and then for the newly-consolidated high school in the late 1960s, leading the nascent Vikings to early success.
He remained a devoted supporter of the Vikings in the half-century that followed. He helped create the VCHS Athletic Hall of Fame and later on was inducted for his service to the Vikings.
He even wrote books archiving the entire history of the football and basketball programs.
For me, the best part of being a reporter in Vinton County was the privilege of highlighting the successes of local children. This is in large part due to the dedicated teachers, coaches, school district professionals and other community mentors who inspire young Vikings to achieve their greatest potential.
That was Bolender’s goal inside Village Hall on that evening in June 2015.
To earn their civics badge, the scouts had to sit through the whole meeting. (Not always an easy task, and I write that as someone who used to get paid to do it.)
They were 90 minutes in when Council recessed for a quick break. Bolender went over to chat with the scouts.
He noted they had years of scouting and promise ahead of them. He mentioned his own regret about not sticking with the scouts long enough as a kid to earn the status of Eagle Scout.
“If you’re in for it, go the whole way,” Bolender advised the group. “You’ll be proud of that the rest of your life.”
I don’t remember what items were on the Council’s agenda that day. But I’ll never forget the smiles from those scouts as Bolender walked back to take his seat.
You hear a lot of valuable life lessons growing up in Vinton County. A lot of that is thanks to people like David Bolender.
Rest in peace, Coach.
Tyler Buchanan, Columbus
Former Courier reporter and editor, 2013-2019