City Hall officials were surprised and saddened to learn that longtime Brookfield Ald. Jim Garvens died Wednesday morning after complications following knee surgery on Monday.
"It really makes you mindful of how fragile in some ways life is," Mayor Steve Ponto said. "And how important it is to make the most of each day. I think Jim did that. He was really fully engaged to the end."
Garvens, 75, has been a city alderman since 1991 and most recently served District 3. He was a retired corporate executive who ran several businesses, including a division within Johnson Controls.
But his retirement was focused heavily on spending time with family, as well as with the Elmbrook Rotary Club, City Attorney Karen Flaherty said. He loved visiting a vacation home in northern Wisconsin with his wife, Lorna, his children and grandchildren.
"One of the reasons he wanted to have the knee surgery was to spend good quality time with his grandsons," Flaherty said. "They'd say, 'Come on, Grandpa, we just found a new (ATV) trail. Come on and ride with us.' He was just the nicest man, just caring about how other people were doing.
"Even though he had run companies and dealt with union issues, he was still very compassionate," Flaherty said.
Jim Zwerlein, Brookfield's human resources director, said Garvens "generously shared his skill and perspective to help make Brookfield government the outstanding organization it is today.
"He was a mentor to me and other senior staff, and I will miss his guidance,
optimism, and genuine approach to life," Zwerlein said.
Garvens was quiet at meetings but gregarious in conversations afterward. He at times drove his red Porsche to City Hall; other days his Lincoln was his steady ride.
"He was easy to deal with," Ponto said. "I found him very thoughtful and reasonable. I would always think about what position Jim Garvens was taking beause I knew it would be well considered."
Ponto said Garvens, who had a history of heart issues, had blood pressure problems following the surgery but his health rallied back Tuesday before failing again Wednesday morning.
Memorial information was not yet available.