Melvin Andrew Polarek passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side on February 12, 2021 after a recent lung cancer diagnosis.
Mel was born on February 20, 1933, in Chicago, IL to the late Andrew and Agnes (Komasa) Polarek and was the eldest brother to Kenneth and David. He grew up with lots of love, big family gatherings, Polish food, a strong faith, and a belief that there is nothing that you cannot do. Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, Mel spent much of his early days working and playing sports.
Mel graduated from Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) with a degree in aeronautical mechanics. Immediately, he put his degree to use in the United States Air Force and served during the Korean War from 1952 – 1956.
Mel came to Green Bay early in his tenure with Eastman Kodak where he was an engineer for over 40 years. It was in Green Bay that he met Sandy Thompson, his wife of 48 years. Mel and Sandy became members of Union Congregational UCC Church and raised their daughter, Nicole, amongst a family of friends from church. GSO, Cosmopolites, Bridge group, and Sage offered years of important traditions.
Throughout his life, Mel was committed to helping people. He was a doer and spent his time lifting people up, problem-solving, and coaching. He believed in listening more than talking, and when he spoke, he was known for his progressive and wise perspective. Among so many initiatives, Mel helped usher the Habitat for Humanity program to Green Bay and served 10 years as President. Recently, he served in leadership roles for the Green Bay Optimist Club including Lt. Governor for the WI NUM District. He was active in church leadership and was a youth group leader for over 15 years. He believed in people and their potential, being engaged and generous, and continuous learning. That came through in everything he touched.
People who knew Mel will not forget his laugh or the twinkle in his eye. His deep voice was recognizable from afar. Many will remember Mel from the racquetball court or the ballfield as he played into his 70’s. He was a lifelong athlete, Chicago Bears and Cubs fan, and constant advocate for youth sports.
He will be also be remembered for his devotion to his wife and his love for his family. Mel was rarely spotted far from his grandchildren, who adored him. This year, he spent every day working with them in virtual school. He died with yellow paint on his foot from recent art projects.
Mel is survived by Sandy (Thompson)Polarek; his daughter, Nicole (Jason Ferry) Polarek; grandchildren, Drew, Will, and Elle Ferry; brothers, Kenneth (Cathy) Polarek and David Polarek; four nieces, two nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, cousins, and many friends. Mel is further survived by four children from a previous marriage who were always in his heart. In addition to his parents, Mel was preceded by his father- and mother-in-law, Bud and Kathleen Thompson.
In lieu of flowers and in Mel’s name, donations may be made to a cause and organization that you believe in.
A Private Memorial Service will be held at Proko-Wall Funeral Home and will be live streamed via Facebook on Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 2:00 PM. Please visit the Proko-Wall Funeral Home Facebook page to attend the event. A celebration of life will take place later when it is safer to gather. Online condolences may be expressed at www.prokowall.com.