Robert J. Enright, 98

Published 8:59 am Friday, February 23, 2018

Robert J. Enright, 98

Former Austin Mayor and city councilman Robert J. Enright, 98, died on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, at Brightondale Assisted Living in New Brighton, Minnesota.

Enright was born on March 18, 1919, in Mower County, Minnesota, the son of William and Marian Enright. He graduated from St. Augustine High School and was a member of the school’s basketball team and undefeated football team. He served four years in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, including 34 months in the China-Burma-India Theater, where he was a military occupation specialist.

On Dec. 19, 1944, he married Ilene (Johnson) Enright. The couple was married for over 66 years until Mrs. Enright’s death in 2010. The couple had five children.

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Enright worked for 47 years at the Hormel plant in Austin and was a proud member of the local union. He was a charter member of Queen of Angels Church, served on the Sacred Heart Hospice Board and belonged to the Austin Duplicate Bridge Club, attaining the rank of Life Master.

Mayor Enright has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2018 Pillars of the City award, which recognizes people in Austin’s past and present “who have made significant contributions to improving the impact, health, education, culture, recreation, communications, business or scientific innovation.” Enright, one of three individuals chosen from 39 nominees, is the first elected official to be recognized as a Pillar of the City. His name will be enshrined in a ceremony this summer with a plaque placed on one of the pillars of the North Main Street floodwall.

Enright was elected to a four-year term as Third Ward Aldermen in 1960 and served four years as alderman-at-Large. He was elected and re-elected mayor for 10 years (1968-1970 and 1975-1983). He won all of the eight municipal elections he entered. He also served four years on the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Board.

He played a crucial leadership role during his years in office in numerous public issues, including construction of three high rise residential facilities for the elderly, an extensive street paving and widening program started in the 1960s, expansion of the Hormel Nature Center, evacuation of the Cedar River flood plain and conversion to park land, a major expansion of Todd Park and the building of a first-class softball complex.

He led the effort to sign the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency contract to provide the city with long term affordable and reliable energy, was instrumental in the creation of the city’s human relations ordinance, construction of a new fire station and sewage plant and downtown beautification project.

Enright played an essential role as mayor in working with Hormel Company management and local union leadership for the successful construction of the Hormel flagship facility.

Upon his retirement, an Austin Daily Herald editorial stated, “Bob Enright had a unique set of qualities, too, during his 22 years of successful public service… But one seems to stand above the others: he had the ability to listen. And after he had heard people out, he would act with compassion. Many of the public works projects in the city were the end results of Enright’s ability to carefully consider information presented to him from many sources.”

Enright is survived by five children, Michael (Paulette)Enright, The Villages, Florida, Cindy (Roger) Swanson, New Brighton, John (Sandra) Enright, Oxford, Florida, James Enright, St. Paul, Joseph Enright, Scottsdale, Arizona; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents; wife, Ilene; and sisters, Jeanne Schultz and Betty Hart.

A funeral Mass will be held 11 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 24, 2018, at Queen of Angels Catholic Church with Father Dale Tupper officiating. Friends may call at 10 a.m. until the time of the service. Interment will be at Cavalry Cemetery. Mayer Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.