First U.S. female honorary consul of Belgium dies

Dolores Bultinck, who for decades was an honorary Consul of Belgium and a leader of Moline’s historic Olde Towne district, has died. She was 91.

The professor emerita of Black Hawk College and long-time owner of the Flemish Lion gift shop, died Thursday, March 31, 2022, at Overlook Village, Moline. Mass is 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 6, at Sacred Heart Church, Moline. Visitation is one hour prior at the church. Burial is at St. Mary’s Cemetery, East Moline.

According to her obituary posted by Rafferty Funeral Home, Moline, Ms. Bultinck opened her “gift boutique, The Flemish Lion, in the heart of Olde Towne, Moline” in 1976. It also served as the heart of the district until closing in late 2005.

From the time it was first platted, Olde Town attracted immigrants – many from Sweden and Belgium – who had come to work in nearby factories, according to histories of the neighborhood. The district’s Flemish population grew to more than 6,000 by 1960 making it the largest concentration of Belgians in the United States next to Detroit. Their presence in the community led to the opening of the Belgian Consulate Office in the Olde Towne district.

In 1973, Ms. Bultinck was appointed to serve as the Honorary Consul of Belgium with jurisdiction over Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. She was the first U.S. woman appointed by the Belgian government to fill that post, which holds official status with the  U.S. Department of State.

During her 30 years of service as honorary consul, she was recognized with five distinctions: Knight in the Order of Leopold I, Knight in the Order of Leopold II, Knight in the Order of the Crown, Officer in the Order of Leopold II, and Distinction in the National Order of Leopold II upon retirement in 2003.

She also was a charter member of the Center for Belgian Culture, and served as its president and on its executive board.

In her career as an educator, her obituary stated, Ms. Bultinck taught in the business departments of Reynolds High School; Rockridge High School; Warren High School; East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois; and Rock Island Senior High School. She joined the Black Hawk College faculty 1962 and retired in 1986.

Ms. Bultinck received a master’s degree in education and a doctorate from the University of Illinois as well as a doctorate in higher technical education from the University of Iowa.

In 2001, Ms. Bultinck received the Illinois Woman of Achievement Award from the State of Illinois. In 1964, the Junior Board of Rock Island chose her as the Mardi Gras Queen to recognize her service to the community.

She is survived by her sister, Lucrese Hunter, Moline, and many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Online condolences for Ms. Bultinck can be left at

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