A strong, hardworking, yet quiet man, Jeffrey Pollnow threw himself into life. He enjoyed being around family, friends and his dog, and kicking back to relax. It was easy to see that Jeff was married to the love of his life, and together they raised their two sons. Although he enjoyed being a husband and father, he just may have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandfather four times over. Although he will be deeply missed, Jeff leaves behind so many memories that his loved ones will forever hold in their hearts.
Jeff’s journey began in the 1950s. It was the 1950s when blue jeans became part of our wardrobes, James Dean made young girls swoon on the silver screen, and Elvis was king. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1953 when Oscar Jr. and Dorothy (Schultz) Pollnow were pleased to announce the birth of the son they named Jeffrey William on March 27, 1953, at Mt Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The older of two children born to his parents, he had a younger sister, Joanne, as well as an older half-brother named James and an older half-sister named Lynn, children of Dorothy’s from a previous marriage. Jeff’s father worked as a fireman in Milwaukee, and the family home was located on Thurston Avenue in Milwaukee. When an illness left Jeff’s father disabled, the family moved to Harshaw, Wisconsin.
A young boy of his generation, Jeff was a bustle of activity right from the start. He loved things like fishing, hunting, and swimming. Since they lived on Big Bearskin Lake, he could jump in right by the boathouse, often swimming to an island located halfway across the lake. He loved all water sports, including barefoot water skiing and sailing. Jeff was known for being fearless, especially the time he jumped off the bed and fractured his shoulder while playing Superman! To earn some money, he worked as a potato picker on one of the local farms. Potatoes were a staple food for the Pollnow family, and Jeff developed a love for mashed potatoes. He would also heat the potatoes and tuck them in bed with him to keep warm on winter nights.
Because the family lived about 40 miles away from the grade school in Rhinelander, Jeff was the first one on the bus in the morning and the last one off the bus in the afternoon. He was always proud of the fact he went to school and played football with Mike Webster, who went on to have a hall of fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A student at local schools Jeff started high school at Rheinlander High School and after moving back to Milwaukee he attended Pulaski High School on Milwaukee’s South side.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Jeff’s introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Jean Witt, and she was the younger sister of his friend, John. They officially met on May 15, 1971, when he was over to visit John. She washed the windows of Jeff’s car, and he repaid her by giving her a ride to school the next day. Sparks flew, and Jeff often met Jean for lunch at school, driving up in his 1948 flatbed farm truck with red wooden sides and honking his awooga horn. Deeply in love, Jeff and Jean were married on May 15, 1976, at Chapel of the Bells, in Milwaukee. In October, 1976, their marriage was blessed at St. Stephens Church by Pastor Race, Oscar’s (Jeff’s Dad’s) schoolmate.
As a young newlywed, Jeff worked as a machinist at Milwaukee Cylinder while Jean worked at Lincoln State Bank. Together they were blessed with the birth of their first son, Jim, on November 18, 1976, and later their son, Joe, was born on May 14, 1979, the day before Jean’s birthday. Many of the family vacations were at Big Bearskin Lake back in Harshaw, sometimes fishing but often working and cutting firewood. In 1978, Jeff and Jean bought the three-and-a-half acre “Esch Farm” in Oak Creek including an old farmhouse that was built in the 1850s. Together (and with the help of friends and family) they worked for an entire year to restore the farmhouse before they were able to move in.
When it came to his role as a parent, Jeff loved his boys, although many times with tough love. A crooked brow and a stern voice were usually scary enough to correct them without having to do anything else. He gave the boys the independence for hands on learning. This included letting them loose with the lawnmower at young ages and the freedom to pound nails into all the boards they could reach on the barn. Jeff worked on cars while Joe was “his little helper,” watching and learning along the way, and he also taught Jim to snowmobile and take the neighbor kids for rides. His sons felt special by being the only ones who were dropped off at Little League on a motorcycle.
Jeff took great pride in the work he did. He learned every job on the floor at Milwaukee Cylinder. He enjoyed snowmobiling, weight lifting, listening to baseball, and golfing. Of course, things didn’t always go his way, and you could hear him from a mile away when he was upset as he was not a happy loser. However, Jeff did have a soft heart, especially for those with special needs, often volunteering at Curative Workshop. In 2005, Jeff had the opportunity to help baptize two young men, twin brothers with cerebral palsy, and it was at this time that he decided to be baptized himself as well. Little did he know that one day he would have a grandson with cerebral palsy. All four of his grandchildren were the light of his life. Of course Jeff loved spoiling them with special treats like ice cream cones and dollar bills.
Sadly, Jeff was introduced to alcohol at a young age. Through the years, it became too easy to consider it a “reward” for all his hard work. Alcohol was a big part of the destruction of the marriage of Jeff and Jean as they divorced in June of 1997. Jeff was devastated and fought to be sober to continue a relationship with Jean and their sons. They were able to have a relationship, but not without challenges. The disease also took its toll on his body and contributed towards his death along with cancer.
Jeff retired from Milwaukee Cylinder in April of 2015 after 44 years of service. He had an injury in August of that year, and Jean continued caring for Jeff to help with his rehab. He was blessed while attending a Sunday morning service at Parkway Apostolic Church on September 6, 2015. After being prayed for by the congregation, Jeff received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. He said, “I have a whole new reason to live now. I feel like a new man.”
With a selfless spirit and a compassionate heart, Jeffrey Pollnow showed love to others in ways both great and small. In more recent years, he was known for saying things like, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” but he was also one of the hardest working people around. Jeff cherished his family, and it was when surrounded by their love that he was happiest. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Jeffrey William Pollnow died on October 3, 2015. Jeff is survived by the love of his life, Jean Pollnow; children, James Pollnow and Joseph (Sarah) Pollnow; grandchildren, Olivia, Wesley, Levi, and Clayton; siblings, Joanne (James) Hett and James (Patricia) Lewko; and other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather to celebrate Jeff’s life on Wednesday, October 7 , 2015, at Parkway Apostolic Church 10940 S. Nicholson Road, Oak Creek, WI 53154 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Memorial Service to follow at 7:00 p.m. Arrangements provided by Suminski Family LifeStory Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski 414-744-5156, www.SuminskiFuneralHome.com