In helping others, Bachman became 'Mr. Wauwatosa'
Richard Bachman made sure the streets of Wauwatosa were lined with American flags, that it had Little League Baseball and a Fourth of July celebration, that food pantries were stocked, and that every squad car was equipped with a lifesaving defibrillator.
Yes, Bachman was an alderman for 24 years, but it was not a good idea to call him a politician.
"If you called him a politician, he would get extremely angry with you," said his son Rick Bachman. "He saw himself as a public servant — that's what he viewed himself as."
Richard Bachman, who served the city's 7th District and was one half of the team known as "Mr. and Mrs. Wauwatosa," died April 5 of congestive heart failure at a Menomonee Falls care facility. He was 83.
A tool-and-die-maker who worked at Cutler Hammer and Milwaukee Electric Tool, Bachman decided to run for alderman in 1968. Over the years, he and his wife would team up on a variety of civic works. He'd met the former Gloria Mallon, a model and former Miss South Shore Frolic, on a blind date.
For his first run for alderman, Bachman enlisted his children to put up lawn signs — a tradition that would run through his years of service on the council.
"I actually learned how to spell my name putting up campaign signs," said Rick Bachman of the Town of Vernon.
If a commercial project was met with opposition, he'd invite neighbors and the architects of the project to meet in his backyard. His children handed out fliers in the neighborhood. Everybody had to behave, they were told. There would be no shouting. Gloria would serve coffee.
Usually, the neighbors' concerns were satisfied.
"Sometimes it was as simple as putting in some trees as a buffer," his son said. And the project was approved.
"That's how he handled things. He loved seeing people happy. He didn't like it when things went wrong. He often said, 'I may have fought hard, but I never fought dirty.'"
He was alderman from 1968-'84, then served from 1990 to 1998. He served on the Park and Forestry Commission, the Zoning Appeals Board and as chairman of the city's Bicentennial Commission, his son said. Bachman helped found the city's recycling program in the early 1970s "before it was hip to recycle," his son said.
But if you asked about his proudest accomplishment, his son said, it would be his volunteer work — especially the defibrillator program he and his late wife worked on. They spearheaded a project to equip all Wauwatosa police squads with defibrillators, an electrical device that provides a shock to the heart during a life-threatening arrhythmia. The program included training and spare parts for the equipment.
The $19,000 needed for the program was raised in two weeks. His wife died in September 2009, shortly before the program was completed. That year, the couple was named the Wauwatosa Distinguished Citizens of the Year.
Beginning in 1997, he and his wife got permission from the city to place flags on medians on North Ave. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they wanted to line North Ave. with flags — from 60th to 124th streets. The city granted them permission to raise money to put flags on light posts — all privately funded.
"He would walk both sides of North Ave. soliciting all the businesses to support the flag," his son said.
The project included maintenance, annual inspection of flags and replacement if needed.
"The flag means a lot to him," his son said. "He appreciated all the military and everyone who gave their lives so we could have the freedoms we have."
Over the years, Bachman raised about $69,000 for the flag project, his son said. The local Kiwanis club has now taken it over.
He was a volunteer for 16 years with the National Night Out event, and the spring cleanup in Hart Park. Other projects included the Tosa Cares food pantry program and the "Souper Bowl of Caring" project, a national effort calling upon church members to give $1 on Super Bowl Sunday to benefit food pantries.
"He read about it in 'Dear Abby.' He came to the churches and said, 'Guys, why can't we do that?' And he just ran with it," Rick Bachman said.
It's an often used phrase, his son said, but it's what made Richard Bachman tick: "He just wanted to help people."
Besides his son, Bachman is survived by a daughter, Sandra Pie, and another son, Scott Bachman; and six grandchildren.
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Services will be held Saturday at Schmidt and Bartelt Funeral Home, 10121 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa. Visitation will be held until time of services at 3 p.m. Memorials in his name may be made to the Bachman Flag Fund, City of Wauwatosa, 7725 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, WI 53213.
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