A man’s worth can be valued in such a way that it leaves a lasting legacy and a forever imprint on the hearts of those who knew and loved him, and Bob Polack was such a man. An example of entrepreneurial spirit and the American dream, with integrity and determination, Bob lived his life devout to his faith, dedicated to his family, faithful to his many friends and as an energetic, hard worker. He gave his all and then some, for which he will be deeply missed.
The son of Sidney and Margaret (Meagher) Polack, Robert Maurice Polack was born on January 20, 1927 in Seattle, Washington. Marked by a time of prosperity, the year 1927 was filled with excitement as “Strike Up the Band” and “Old Man River” played on the radio and news of the day was the heroes welcome given to Charles Lindbergh following his historic transatlantic flight. With prohibition in full swing, the flapper redefined womanhood and gay times filled the air.
Bob was the fifth of eventually seven children and joined his older siblings Cam, Jack, Lorraine and Betty. His brother, Sidney, Jr. sadly died before Bob was born. He later welcomed his last sibling, Joe, who Bob was often “stuck” with at their mother’s request. The Polack family made their home in Seattle until Bob was nearly six years old at which time they moved to Tacoma. There they lived in a house where music legend Bing Crosby had once lived. Eventually when Bob was 11 years old his family made their way to Michigan where they settled in the Grand Rapids area. In his youth, he got his first nickname from his mother and sisters – “Bobbert.” Later, Joe would often greet Bob by saying “Hi Roberto” to which Bob would respond “Hi Giuseppe.”
The onset of the Great Depression created financial hardship the world over. From a young age Bob learned to do whatever he could to help his family. He mowed lawns, and shoveled driveways and sidewalks. He also worked as a newsboy delivering magazines and newspapers. One time using his hard-earned money to buy roller skates for his sisters. It was during this time when Bob adopted his lifelong motto, “Make it happen” which served him well throughout the rest of his life.
With his wavy red hair, Bob served as the team captain for the cheerleading team at Catholic Central High School. Back then, all cheerleaders were male at that time. When cheering, Bob would jump so high in the air and then land so low that he appeared to literally melt into the floor. With World War II well underway, Bob, like many, felt the call to duty. In December of 1944 he left his schooling behind and enlisted to serve with the U.S. Navy before his graduation. As a Seaman First Class, Bob worked as a yeoman on an AK-70, an attack cargo ship known as the USS Crater where he got the nickname “Red” which was even lettered onto his backpack. Having traveled from San Francisco to the Philippines, they crossed the equator and once in New Zealand, VJ day was announced as WWII had finally come to a thankful end. He ended up spending a month in Australia before his honorable discharge in July of 1946.
Bob met the love of his life, Margie Murphy through a blind date set up by his sister, Betty. Happily married on June 25, 1949, Bob was 22 and Margie was 19. Before long they shared their love with their five beautiful children, Craig, Terry, Lauralyn, Patrice, and Jocelyn. Bob continued the tradition of unusual nicknames and referred to Margie as “Mrs. Honey” and in turn, she would call him “Mr. Honey.” A true family man, numerous memories were shared and enjoyed as a family throughout the years. Family vacations, picnics, the holidays and other special occasions created memorable times for all. Of course, everyone loved Bob’s (who by this time had acquired yet another nickname – “Big B”) annual corn roast he loved hosting. Family and friends alike joined Bob and his family for this special event each year where he would roast a bushel of corn complete with big cans of melted butter. He also supplied gloves for everyone to wear and it was something everyone looked forward to with delight!!
Always the hard worker, Bob was an energetic and accomplished salesman. His entrepreneurial talents led him to the publishing world where, with the help of Margie and his children, he began several printing, publishing and advertising companies in his basement. Through the years, he started and sold his business endeavors and in the early 1970’s, Bob and Margie moved their family to Milwaukee and founded Liturgical Publications, Incorporated, which grew into a nationwide publishing company. Whether in his work or at home, Bob lived as an example. He was devoted to his Catholic faith and actively practiced his faith on a daily basis. Talented in many respects, Bob also loved to sing and act in community plays with the Theater Crafters. He was in the Pajama Game, The Music Man, Brigadoon, and Mikado and loved every minute of it. In addition, he was a member of the North Hills Country Club and was active with the Vince Lombardi Charity Golf Tournament and the Knights of Columbus. An avid fan of the Green Bay Packers, he also enjoyed working Sudoku puzzles and he loved a good game of gin rummy.
Bob was an avid golfer. One time he parked his cart at the top of a hill and when he got out to take his shot, the cart rolled down the hill into an alligator infested water hazard. He had to hire a diver to recover his clubs and wallet along with having to pay a hefty fine to have the cart pulled out! Boating was another pastime Bob loved. In 1987, he and Marge bought, “Ain’t She Purdy”, a 31’ cabin cruiser they kept at their condo when they wintered in Juno Beach, Florida. Bob and Marge also had a penchant for travel. Over their 68 year marriage they experienced fascinating sights such as the Orient which included China, Japan, Singapore, Bali, Thailand, and Hong Kong. They also traveled to South America to Machu Picchu, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. They toured Europe and Scandinavia extensively, as well. One of the highlights of Bob’s life, however, was in May of 2014 when his son, Craig chaperoned him to Washington DC on the Honor Flight.
In all ways, Bob Polack was a caring and compassionate man. He devoted his time and talents in everything he did, and with passion. Bob had a deep, genuine and loving concern for his family, faith, employees and friends. His determined nature saw him through much, always living by his tireless motto, “Make it happen”. A wonderful example for his children to live by, Bob’s family brought him the greatest joy and in them he felt much pride. Whether they referred to him as “Grandpa,” “Gramps” or even “Grandgrunk,” his grandchildren – and later his great-grandchildren – meant the world to him. At each of his grandchildren’s weddings, Bob led family and friends in prayer at the reception dinner and would always conclude with the same sage advice: “Our secret to a happy marriage is not 50:50, it’s 75:75.” He was admired greatly by his family and friends for all that he accomplished, yet Bob considered himself humbly blessed. Deeply missed, he will be remembered fondly.
Robert M. Polack, of Milwaukee, WI and formerly of Grand Rapids, MI, died on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the age of 91. The beloved husband for 68 years of Marjorie Louise Polack (nee Murphy), he was the cherished father of sons, Craig (Susan) and Terrance (Linda); daughters, Lauralyn Rudig (Mark), Patrice Shields (Randall) and Jocelyn Martinek (Greg). He is further survived by his brother, Joseph Polack (Janet); bother-in-law, Wallace Bouchard; 15 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and a large extended family.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Sidney and Margaret (Meagher) Polack; brothers, Sidney Jr., John and his wife, Florence; sisters, Mary Margaret (alias Cameron Blake), Elizabeth Bouchard (Wallace), Lorraine Ball and her husband, Theodore; his father-in-law, Patrick Norton Murphy; mother-in-law, Marie Helen Murphy (Nischan); and brother-in-law, Donald Murphy.
Visitation will be Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at the Suminski Weiss Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53202 from 4-7 PM with a Vigil service following at 7:00 PM. Additional visitation will be held Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Three Holy Women Parish – St. Hedwig Church, 1702 N. Humboldt Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53202 from 9:00 AM until the time of the Funeral Mass at 10:00 AM. A private entombment will be held at Holy Cross Cemetery. Please consider donations in celebration of Robert’s life to be sent to: Priests of the Sacred Heart, Hales Corners, WI and Catholic Central High School Foundation in Grand Rapids, MI.