Former Bettendorf alderman, Norm Voelliger has not only been a witness to much of Bettendorf’s history, but an active participant in the city’s ongoing growth and development.
Norm’s roots in the community run deep. His mother’s family, the Bachs, settled in Bettendorf around 1905, when William and Joseph Bettendorf relocated their factory to the city’s river front and gave their name to the town. His grandfather worked at the plant which revolutionized the railroad industry with cast steel trucks for railroad cars.
The Voelliger side of Norm’s family moved to Bettendorf in the early 1920’s. His father, Paul, and Uncle Art opened a gas station with a single pump at 14th and State Streets on February 22nd, 1922. The station eventually became a Texaco station, after previous incarnations, as a Midway and DX service station. Later the Voelliger brothers added a hardware store and auto repair garage to their business. They also built the City Center Motel which still stands on State Street, though the family sold their interest in the property in 1982
Paul Voelliger and his wife, Dorothy Voelliger resided in a home at 10th and Brown Streets. Coincidentally, they lived across the road from Clarence Brown, famously remembered for accepting the challenge to raise $15,000 necessary to purchase the Gilbert farm property on the Mississippi River front to attract the Bettendorf Axle Company to locate their factory there.
Norm could say, in the immortal words of Yankee great Yogi Berra, “It’s deja vu all over again,” when it comes to issues related to the I-74 bridge construction project. As a child, Norm watched the first span of the suspension bridge constructed about 1935, after 25 years of planning. Before that time, no bridge linked Moline and Bettendorf.
The second span of the bridge was erected between 1958 and 1959 and officially opened and dedicated on January 20th 1960. This span also required property to be purchased and buildings demolished in downtown Bettendorf. The Voelligers lost their station, but rebuilt at a new location.
Eight years later the federal government took ownership of the bridge from the Davenport Bridge Commission. The bridge then became a link in the growing Interstate Highway System. The Voelliger brothers sold their gas station to the government in 1966, as part of the I-74 overpass construction process.
With the family gas station gone, Norm changed careers and became a Mel Foster real estate agent, but in 1969 he went to work for the Prudential Life Insurance Company, eventually becoming both an agent and sales manager. He retired from that position in 1991.
Throughout much of his life, Norm has been engaged in city government. He served as city treasurer, first ward alderman and alderman at large and on the board of adjustments. His family has long been involved in the city’s volunteer fire department. He served on the fire department for 39 years and was assistant chief for 23 years. Norm worked with Bettendorf mayors Bill Glynn, Ann Hutchison, Mike Freemire and now Robert Gallagher. He still vividly recalls the stressful period in 1988, when the city’s debt caused a crisis..
Today Norm and his wife, Carol live up on the hill above downtown Bettendorf. They have three sons and six grandchildren and remain actively engaged in civic and social activities.