Lee Bolin, the longtime co-owner of Saddletree Homes in Colorado Springs, wasn’t just a successful, popular and respected member of the local homebuilding industry. He also had one of the community’s most recognizable voices.
“We build the home you see when you close your eyes and dream,” Bolin would say in a folksy manner at the end of each radio commercial for Saddletree — a simple but powerful message that he wrote and that was heard for years and years in the Springs community.
Bolin, known for his honesty and thoughtfulness as an employer and family man, died Nov. 24 after complications of a stroke last year, said business partner Kelley Barcus. He was 74.
“Lee was just a good guy,” said George Hess of Vantage Homes in Colorado Springs. “He was caring and generous and friendly. He was just a good guy.”
Bolin was born in Missouri, moved to suburban Los Angeles when he was 9 and started a framing and construction company in 1971, according to friends and family. By the mid-1980s, his company was one of Southern California’s largest framing contractors, with nearly 1,100 carpenters. Along the way, he also built homes as a hobby in addition to running his business.
Bolin’s Christian faith was very important to him, said Barcus, who went to work for Bolin in 1981 and became his partner. A supporter of Focus on the Family, Bolin came to the Springs in the early 1990s for the ministry’s headquarters dedication after it moved here from California. Bolin fell in love with the Springs, moved here in 1994, and he and Barcus started Saddletree.
The company was named after the wooden support that’s embedded in saddles, which reflects “strength, longevity and artistic expression,” Bolin said in a 2011 Gazette interview.
Saddletree gained a reputation for its creative home designs. The company also was known for Bolin’s radio ads, where he would use gentle humor to advise homebuyers.
Saddletree rode the ups and downs of the construction business. But even when the industry was in the midst of the post-Great Recession slump, Bolin said in 2011 that he enjoyed his work so much that he’d probably build homes even if he were only breaking even — although he certainly was in business to make a profit.
“I can’t imagine anything that could be more rewarding than what I get to do,” Bolin said. “I’ve often said that I’ve never really worked for a living because I get to do my hobby every day.”
Barcus described Bolin as “very honest” and someone “who loved people. And he built a good product that people really liked.” Barcus will continue to run Saddletree and plans no changes in its operation or philosophy.
Hess and Bolin occasionally got together for lunch but often didn’t talk business; they talked about life.
“He was one of those guys that honestly cared about those that worked for him, those around him and our community in general.”
Bolin and his wife, Mickey, were married for 57 years; on their golden wedding anniversary, Bolin took out a billboard ad that read, “50 years and still glowing.”
Bolin also is survived by daughters Nancy and Janet, three grandsons and a great-grandaughter. A memorial service will take place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Worship Center, 501 Castle Road in Colorado Springs. A reception will follow. Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to the worship center.