Former Wellesley councillor Jim Olender passed away December 26 at Grand River Hospital. He was 70.
Olender, a two-term councillor for Ward 3 (2006-2014), is remembered fondly by his former colleagues from around the council table.
“He was one of the most dedicated guys I have ever known,” Ward 2 Coun. Herb Neher said. “He thoroughly enjoyed his job as a councillor. He was so into it, he wanted to attend all of the different functions and he was on all kinds of committees. … This was his calling; he took his job very seriously and he was in it for the right reasons.”
A long-time manager at the Waterloo Region District School Board, Olender was a passionate supporter of youth sports and activities.
“He was always very interested in providing services and programs for the young people of our township,” Neher explained. “Whether it was through involvement in minor hockey or his strong support for the Wellesley skate park facility, Jim really cared about the kids in his community.”
Ward 1 Coun. Shelley Wagner remembered watching her son thrive under Olender’s coaching in minor hockey.
“I’ve known Jim for years because he coached my son in hockey and as a hockey coach he was wonderful,” she said. “My son really flourished and developed under Jim.”
She continued, “Jim was so dedicated to all of the things he took on. He always stood up for the community and especially the youth. He was involved in the prevention of abuse and crime and he was a big supporter of the skate park; he was a good person.”
Former Ward 4 councillor Paul Hergott concurred.
“He brought some really good ideas to the table. All of the councillors worked well together and we all got along. Jim was well respected and he worked hard to represent his community the best he could.”
Ross Kelterborn, mayor during Olender’s tenure, echoed that sentiment.
“He was there for the entire township of Wellesley; he looked after his ward but he was there for the whole Township of Wellesley.”
He added, with a laugh, “He was always prepared for council and always read up on every issue; he would even correct all of the spelling mistakes in the council packages.”
Olender ran for mayor in October, falling to Joe Nowak in a close race.
During the campaign, Olender outlined his passion for municipal politics.
“I have lived in Wellesley for over 23 years and it is my opinion that truly living in a community is more than merely having an address; it is about being involved,” he said. “From being an assistant coach of Junior hockey, to being elected councillor, I continue to try to make the community where I reside a better place.”
He is survived by his wife Marilyn and son Trevor.
Olender’s family will receive relatives and friends from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on January 2 at the Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick St., Kitchener. A memorial service will be held in the chapel of the funeral home on January 3 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre or to the Clarky’s Kids Foundation (an organization that allows children with cancer to attend Kitchener Rangers hockey games) would be appreciated by the family.