Former New Bedford Mayor Fred Kalisz and I weren't buds. It's not that I didn't like Kalisz, who passed away on Wednesday due to complications from COVID-19. It's just that Kalisz and I walked on different sides of the street. He was the mayor, and I am the press. We're not supposed to be buds. It was my job to second guess the things that he did. Ours was an adversarial relationship that is supposed to exist between the government and the press.

I'm not even sure if Kalisz liked me. I know he hated my politics. Kalisz was a staunch Democrat and was never shy about defending his party. I, on the other hand, am a hard-right conservative. Our politics didn't always mesh. I hope Kalisz at least considered me to be a decent person. Our kids played ball together, and we were always cordial to each other when our paths crossed.

Fred Kalisz was a fair man. He always wanted to help. I don't ever ask politicians for favors, but twice I asked Fred for his assistance. He delivered without hesitation.

The first time involved broken city sewer pipes that resulted in a flood in my basement. I called Fred to ask what the city was going to do about it. Knowing I had small kids in the house, Kalisz told me not to wait for insurance companies but to get it cleaned, and he would take care of it. I did, and so did he.

The second time I asked Fred to help me find money to take two busloads of disadvantaged city kids to the Science Museum in Boston and for lunch at the Rainforest Café in Burlington. Not only did Fred find the money, but he, his wife Pat, and their son Ricky served as chaperones.

There was also the time that Fred saw my wife looking distraught. Upon inquiring as to what the matter was, Kalisz learned that a ring that had belonged to my late mother had slipped off her finger and into a storm drain in front of City Hall. Kalisz called out the Sewer Department, made them suck the sludge from the sewer, dry it and then sift for the ring.

Fred Kalisz was as big-hearted as they come. Fred loved his God, adored his family, and was dedicated to his city and its people. Fred Kalisz was not just New Bedford's mayor, he was New Bedford.

Rest easy, Mr. Mayor. You will be missed.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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