FREMONT -- Robert Wasserman spent 37 years giving to his adopted home city, serving as police chief, councilman and mayor before passing away at age 79.
City officials will publicly thank him for his hard work Friday afternoon, when the police station will be renamed the Robert Wasserman Fremont Police Center.
"My family and I, we are just so honored," said Linda Wasserman, the former mayor's longtime wife. "He gave very unselfishly to Fremont, and we're so delighted he's now being recognized."
Friday would have been the couple's 55th wedding anniversary, making the day of celebration somewhat bittersweet. Twenty-one months after his death, the former mayor's absence has left his widow "with a big hole in my heart," she said.
Wasserman, known to many as "Bob," grew up in East Los Angeles in the late 1930s and '40s, which "was very integrated from day one," Linda Wasserman said. "We grew up respecting anyone and everyone."
He signed up for the National Guard at age 15 and served as a military policeman for the Army in Japan, she said. When he returned to the United States in the early 1950s, Wasserman displayed a tireless work ethic, earning a bachelor's degree in law enforcement administration from Los Angeles State College and a Master's in public administration from the University of Southern California.
"He was so motivated, never satisfied and he always wanted to go to the next step," Linda Wasserman said. "He knew he wanted to reach the top, and he did."
Current Mayor Bill Harrison said Wasserman deserves credit for starting the work that made Fremont police a "world-class" department.
"As the city's demographics changed when Bob was police chief, he made sure that the police department started to match the city it serves," said Harrison, who considered Wasserman his mentor. "Whether it was ethnicity or gender, Bob hired people to reach that goal."
Wasserman served as Fremont's police chief from 1976 to 1992, when he was elected to the City Council. He was elected mayor in 2004, and again in 2008. He was serving his second term when he died in late December, 2011.
During those years, he contributed to Fremont's positive growth, as it transformed from a sleepy bedroom community to the Bay Area's fourth-largest city with a burgeoning tech industry.
He nearly succeeded in luring the Oakland A's to town, and was sorely disappointed in 2009, when co-owner Lew Wolff announced the team would not relocate to Fremont.
"His biggest accomplishment was to see Fremont's demographics change peacefully by respecting everyone and making them feel comfortable and safe," Linda Wasserman said.
The public is invited to the ceremony slated to begin at 4 p.m., outside of the police station, at 2000 Stevenson Blvd. A reception will follow in the station's front lobby.
"It's a little backwards in our society because we don't tell people how much they meant to us until they're gone," Harrison said. "But it's important for future generations to recognize the hard work that Bob did within the community."
"I can't think of a better way to do that than to name the police station after him."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
WHAT: Dedication of the Robert Wasserman Fremont Police Center
WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday
WHERE: 2000 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont