Journey ends along the Path Around the Falls

Polashek service set for Saturday
By: 

Dave Polashek, special to the Times Herald

The Oconto Falls School District community will say its final goodbyes Saturday to former Superintendent Dave Polashek.

Polashek, 70, died of natural causes Nov. 18 at his second home in Hartford, Connecticut.

Visitation with the urn present is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Falls Area Performing Arts Center inside Oconto Falls High School, 210 N. Farm Road, Oconto Falls.

A memorial service has been scheduled for 12:30 p.m. in the PAC. A number of Polashek’s friends and former colleagues have been asked to speak.

In his final days, the former superintendent also prepared a final edition of his “Path Around the Falls” column, which he started writing for the Oconto County Times Herald shortly after he started working for the school district in 1993 and ended shortly after his retirement in the summer of 2015. He estimated that he’d written 1,117 columns over those two decades or so.

Here are those final thoughts written in the days preceding his passing.

While taking to the woods for an unbroken string of 43 years to hunt the whitetail, I couldn’t help but pick up a few lessons about life. Thinking back over the years, the best time to score the big buck is as the day breaks. I have also found that the hour before sundown can be a cherished window of opportunity for the season to conclude and be counted as a successful hunt.

Perhaps a bit unexpectedly, I have found that I may now be entering that cherished last hour before the sunset of my life. Like with the whitetail hunt, I will look for as many opportunities as possible to count the season as a success.

This will be the first time since 1974 that I will not be looking for the sunrise from a deer stand on opening morning. That time span is filled with many cherished memories, from getting my first eight-point buck using a 16-gauge bolt action shotgun handed down to me from my grandfather in Nebraska, to sitting with my oldest grandson, Zephan, as he scored his first deer during Wisconsin’s youth hunt. Truly, it is hard to say which of the two events sparked a greater sense of pride. In between, there are thousands of vivid memories, just as the highlights of my life bring visions and smiles.

Thinking back to the daybreak of one’s life can be a challenge. Two visuals come to mind for me. The first is of playing in a sand pile with my sister, Cathy. We were shaping the sand into a landscape with ponds, dams, and rivers. Once the landscape design was created, I wanted to test it. Using a pump, I got some water into a can to test it. The landscape design was proved to work.

The second flashback was one at Christmas. I was sitting on the kitchen floor, and either my dad or Santa ran a red toy Farmall tractor to me. Both of my grandfathers had Farmall tractors, and each of those tractors was an integral part of my experience with them. I spent a lot of time playing with that tractor. Eventually, the two front wheels and the metal piece connecting them to the tractor broke off.

I admired my dad and his ability to fix things, so at some point I sheepishly took it to him. He explained that it was pot metal, or what we now call die cast, and could not be repaired by soldering. Not to let me down, he attempted a couple of repairs with a metal splint and adhesive tape, but eventually the tractor became part of a collection of “not quite perfect toys.”

There are two important take-aways from the broken wheels on the red Farmall tractor. First, my dad was a “fixer.” Sometimes he would use unconventional methods to make those fixes. Of the many things he passed down to me was the attribute of being a fixer. I was fortunate to spend many times doing things with him, and unconventional sometimes became the norm. The second take-away is that even using unconventional methods may not result in a fix. Right now, I am trying to accept the concept that I and the people working with me may not be able to fix the current problem in which I find myself. Crap.