In Memoriam: Joseph E. Polk


Joseph Polk. - Photo by Terry Miller

Joseph Polk. – Photo by Terry Miller


Nov. 12, 1937 – July 28, 2016

Joseph Polk was born on Nov. 12, 1937 in Swoyersville, Pa. Polk’s parents were American-born children of Polish immigrants. The original family name was Pokrzywnicki, which his father shortened to Polk, before Joe and his brother Donald turned 21-years-old.

Pokl loved sports and played basketball on his high school’s basketball team that won a Pennsylvania state championship. He earned a bachelor’s in business from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1961, where he enrolled in ROTC and became an officer in the Air Force (AF) after graduating.

In the AF, from 1962 to 1970, Joe served as a hospital administrator in Texas, Germany, and North Dakota. Joe was fluent in German, and he wrote that he had a “deep interest in German culture and language,” which others knew included German beer.

He considered himself to have been exiled to North Dakota for his last year in the AF, when he told them he would not re-enlist. While in the AF, he married his wife Candace in Texas, earned a master’s from the University of Chicago in December 1965 (after 15 months of a heavy course schedule), and welcomed his son Blair into the world on June 15, 1969, while in North Dakota.

After leaving the AF, he moved to Mississippi, the original home state of his wife. From 1970 to 1975, Polk was a senior financial analyst in the comptroller’s office for Xerox’s southern region. He then turned to investment management and advising private clients. His marriage ultimately ended in divorce, after which Polk undertook the care of his only child, Blair, who had special medical needs, and they both moved to Arcadia.

In his retirement years, Joe worked part time as circulation manager for these newspapers, and Blair would help deliver papers. Polk was deeply saddened when Blair passed away a couple of years ago.

To know Polk was to like him. Always with a great sense of humor, he enjoyed making new friends, particularly women. Women of all ages (including those much younger than him) were attracted to Polk’s sincere friendship and love of music. On the walls of his Arcadia townhouse were countless pictures of a smiling Polk, with a beautiful woman (or two) who had their arms draped around him, often taken by a close friend and local photojournalist who loved to chronicle Polk’s generosity and his exploits that were the envy of men half his age. Always respectful, Polk had a natural charm that women found hard to resist. However, he maintained that there was really only one love in his life, Gloria, with whom he had spent many wonderful times over the years.

Polk had a passion for music, in particular Jazz and Blues. He enjoyed attending outdoor concerts at Cal Phil and other venues, and he was a regular attendee at the Taste of Arcadia, perhaps because of the scantily-clad Brazilian dancing girls who are prominently featured at the event each year.

Polk loved to watch the Lakers with friends and he enjoyed socializing with friends at local restaurants and speak-easies. He maintained many close friendships. Politics and history piqued Polk’s interest and he loved a good argument, which he generally won. His wide knowledge and recall of facts were admirable – this, combined with his terrific sense of humor, made Polk not only a force to be reckoned with, but also a sheer delight to be with, whether at Novel Café, Lucky Baldwin’s, Peppers, or BJ’s Steakhouse. Indeed beer (especially Pilsners) was near and dear to Polk’s heart. He was happiest when he was partaking in both music and beer. Many people knew Polk and will cherish memories of his stories, wit, and repartee.

Polk became bed-ridden after an attack this past March, and he was transferred to a hospice in Santa Barbara in early April. His good humor and charm carried on even then. He liked the food so he asked the female cook to marry him. He flirted with all the female nurses and attendants. Always agreeable and pleasant, he became one of the staff’s favorite patients.

Polk is survived by his brother, Donald Polk, who lives in Santa Barbara.

July 31, 2016

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “In Memoriam: Joseph E. Polk”

  1. Brenda Beck says:

    Terry, beautifully written! You touched the soul and heart of Joe. Thank you for writing this memoriam.

  2. Janie Shriver says:

    Here it is 7 months later and I just read that Joe had passed away. What a shock. He was 80 but I just had no idea and feel so bad. I knew Joe from knowing his son Blair.
    Blair was my friend and the kindest, sweetest man ever. I think it was best Blair left this world first, I always wondered what would happen to him without his dad.
    My heart breaks for this family. Blair and Joe were both so special. Now they are enjoying music together.

    I met Blair through a love for music. It was a wonderful write up on Joe and his life.


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