Ken Bonder helped revitalize downtown Arlington Heights

 
 
  • Celebrants exit a funeral Mass for Ken Bonder, the youngest finance director for a municipality in Illinois when he went to work for Arlington Heights in 1969.

    Celebrants exit a funeral Mass for Ken Bonder, the youngest finance director for a municipality in Illinois when he went to work for Arlington Heights in 1969. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Pallbearers exit a funeral Mass Tuesday at St. Raymond Catholic Church in Mount Prospect.

    Pallbearers exit a funeral Mass Tuesday at St. Raymond Catholic Church in Mount Prospect. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Published: 3/30/2009 3:40 PM

After working 40 years for local governments, Ken Bonder just couldn't stop wearing the uniform.

"He was always wearing navy blue blazers, button-down shirts and penny loafers," said Bonder's son, Kraig Bonder, at his father's funeral on Monday. "Neighbors saw him mowing the lawn wearing all of those."

Bonder, 65, who lived most of his life in Arlington Heights, died March 25 at Northwest Community Hospital after an eight-year battle with cancer.

Bonder joined the village of Arlington Heights in 1969 as the youngest finance director in Illinois. In 1984, he took over as village manager, a position he held until 1992.

More than 200 people attended his funeral at St. Raymond's Catholic Church in Mount Prospect, including many government leaders and police officers from around the Northwest suburbs.

At the end of the Mass, Kraig and Bonder's other child, Kendryn McDonough, talked about their dad who was also known as "Papa" to his five grandsons.

"He loved spending time with his grandsons," said Kendryn. "Whether they were taking train rides, fishing or walking his dog."

In the 1980s, Bonder got involved in planning downtown development, and later as manager continued work to revitalize Arlington Heights. At the time, Bonder and other village officials brought information about the then-new concept of tax increment financing from Highland Park, where it was being tested, back to leaders in Arlington Heights.

Under Bonder's leadership, the village set up two TIF districts - covering downtown and the north end of downtown - building parking garages and sprucing up downtown streets with new benches, walkways and lighting. In a TIF district, tax money from increased property values with redevelopment is used to pay for civic improvements or some rebuilding costs.

Bonder and his wife, Dorice, were also involved in numerous civic groups in town. As a past board member of the Arlington Heights Historical Society, Bonder helped plan Arlington Eve - the village's New Year millennial celebration.

After leaving Arlington Heights in 1992, Bonder was the Prospect Heights manager for a number of years and also consulted for Palatine as its chief financial officer.

He worked on redevelopment projects in downtown Palatine, and helped create a TIF district there. Bonder also did consulting work for the village of Wheeling.

Bonder was an avid golfer and participated in the Arlington Heights Municipal Golf League. He was a member of St. Raymond Catholic Church in Mount Prospect.

Kraig Bonder wrapped up Monday's Mass by talking about a long-standing tradition of his father and grandfather called "The Four-Hour Rule."

"The rule was if something hadn't been discussed in four hours, it wasn't worth discussing and looking at my watch, we have two hours and 53 minutes left," said Kraig Bonder with a smile. "But today we'll celebrate my dad's life with no time restraints. We'll miss you and we love you, dad."