Robert John Polish
Robert John Polish, July 5, 1942- March 23, 2020.
Robert Polish passed away peacefully at home in Porterville, Calif. with his wife Laura by his side. Robert was born on July 5, 1942 to Rudolph Henry Polish and Estella Ball Polish in Dillon. He was raised on the family ranch in Glen and attended a small one room school in Glen through the eighth grade. He graduated from Beaverhead County High School in 1960, and briefly attended the University of Montana before returning to the family ranch. He married Caroline Maree Nelson on January 4, 1964 and moved to Eagle, Colorado that same year. They later divorced.
Robert and his father Rudy moved to Deer Lodge in 1966 and purchased the Deer Lodge Bank and Trust later renamed Peoples Bank of Deer Lodge. They operated the bank in Deer Lodge together until his father’s death in 1979. The bank was sold in 1984. During his years in Deer Lodge, he was instrumental in the growth and development of the small town he loved so much, and was honored to be named the Outstanding Young Man of Montana in the mid 1970’s.
He married Laura Robb on July 8,1989 and she was faithfully by his side until he died.
Following his career in banking, hotel construction and ownership took Robert to various locations in Montana, Idaho, and finally Porterville, Calif. where he retired in 2006.
Robert grew deep roots and loved the land of Montana by tending it on the family’s cattle ranch from the time he could walk. Ranching never left his blood. He later owned a small working cattle ranch in Deer Lodge, with his dad, while owning the bank. Robert found great satisfaction in caring for animals. He was also passionate about flying and was inspired by his father and uncle at a very young age. He spent countless hours not only flying, but attending airshows, sitting at the end of an airstrip, and looking at flying publications endlessly.
Anyone that knew and loved Robert also knows that he always had a grand idea, an invention, or a big dream. He was willing to share it with you for hours and could inspire the smallest thinker to dream bigger. Both of his daughters received their entrepreneurial spirits from their dad.
He was proceeded in death by his father, mother and half sister, Alice (Sunny) Dower.
His legacy lives on through the countless people that loved him, knew him, and were inspired by him. His wife Laura Polish of Porterville, Calif., his daughter Nancy Polish of Seagrove, Fla., daughter Emily (Steve) Sims of Pensacola Beach, Fla., his stepsons Steve Robb of Porterville, Calif., and Mike Robb of Great Falls, grandson William Charles Brock, II (Charlie), Caroline Addison (Addie) Sims, Shelby Robb, Jeremy Robb, John Robb, and Jared Robb, and numerous great-grandchildren.
His remains will be put to rest in a place dear to his heart, Montana, at a time in the future.
In lieu of flowers we ask that you make a donation Landmark Christian Center 2380 W. Olive Ave., Porterville, CA 93257 or online at www.engage.suran.com/lccptv
Peter Joseph Thomas
My father, Pete Thomas, was a complicated man. He was many things to many people and not always good at expressing his emotions. He made decisions and did things that sometimes left people wondering or hurt. He was also a good man, a loving and sentimental man, and my greatest supporter. Let me introduce you to the Pete I knew:
Peter Joseph Thomas was born in Deer Lodge, to Joseph Stanley Thomas and Shirley Mae Martin on August 5th, 1952. When we would pass the old hospital on St. Marys, he would point out to me the room where he was born, despite it being boarded up for my entire life. This is only one of the many ways he showed and instilled in me a pride for being from this community. He loved Deer Lodge.
Pete also loved his family - all of it. He was the fourth of five siblings, and although not always perfect, his relationships with all his siblings held a special place in his heart. To his siblings I say, some of your relationships with my father fared better than others over the years, but please never doubt that he loved you and wished you happiness. He held many fond memories about your lives together. I know because he told me.
Pete was also fiercely proud of his parents. His mother has an unshakable faith which he envied, and Stan was, “the greatest man I’ve ever known”. He credited them for helping him raise two wonderful daughters, whom he also loved fiercely. If anyone needs any WSU Cougar memorabilia, we now have plenty to share.
Closely entwined with his family, Pete also loved the outdoors. He spent ample time at Rock Creek Lake in his youth, where his family had a cabin. He was also an avid hunter and while he enjoyed his personal time outdoors, he enjoyed sharing it with others more. Through the years, these times included countless hikes, hunting camps, and trips with his father, siblings, nephews, nieces, daughters, friends, and more. He was grateful for every moment and every person who shared them with him. These were his happiest times and no matter where life took him, his heart was never far from these experiences and the mountains surrounding this valley.
Pete graduated from Powell County High School in 1971, although sometimes I’m not sure how from the stories he told me. He then enrolled in college in Dillon, but his enrollment was cut short when he was drafted into the US Army as one of the last Vietnam-era draftees from Montana.
As conflict in Vietnam ended soon after, dad found himself stationed in Germany with the 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead). Although only an SP4, he served as a squad leader, a position requiring an NCO two grades higher. This service garnered him a Certificate of Achievement which goes on to state, “SP4 Thomas’ distinctive leadership and aggressiveness was one of the success factors distinguishing his squad from others.” My dad harbored both great humility and great pride in his military years.
After his discharge from the military in 1978, Pete returned home to Deer Lodge. He joined his father, Stan, and brother, Leonard, in a local plumbing business which thrived into the 90s. Afterwards, he and Leonard continued to work together, traveling to neighboring cities and states to build hotels and homes with their crew.
When I reflect back on my father, he is so closely tied to his work that it is nearly impossible for me to separate the two. Dad was proud of what he did, despite the toll it took on his body. It was honest work where he got to help people and create things. He would point out hotels to me that he built and reminisce on the many places his work took him. He was also deeply proud of the time he spent working with his father and brother in their businesses. Despite their many ups-and-downs, Leonard and my dad specifically shared a bond that knows no comparison. It’s something we can all stand to learn from.
Dad met and married my mother, Keri Zana Hill, in the early 80s and formally adopted Keri’s daughter, Amber, as his own. I came along in the late 80’s. The many photo albums on dad’s shelf have helped me to see that despite the turmoil of recent years, my father loved Amber and I with great depth. I know firsthand what it feels like to be loved unconditionally because of my father.
In the end, none of us make the right decisions all the time. However, at his core, my dad was a good man, a beloved son, a steadfast brother, and a dedicated father. For me, and I hope for others, he left a legacy that reflects this. He instilled in me a strong sense of right and wrong, a desire to live a life of adventure, and a dedication to my work and family. Despite everything, my sincerest wish is that when people think of my dad, they also remember these things.
Though time and trials can change us, weather us, and break us down, it is our core that defines us. My dad’s core, despite being stubborn beyond comparison, was also deeply sentimental, loving, and strong. In watching him battle cancer, I am sure that if my grandfather was the best man to have ever lived, my father was the toughest, and although sometimes hard to love, he will be harder for me to live without.
My dad’s final years were ones of chronic illness and frustration with his body and the limitations it put upon him. He passed away in a moment of peace in the early morning hours of March 21st. I am glad that he is now limitless.
He was preceded in death by his father, Stan, and his brother, Steve. My aunt Georgia, Steve’s wife, imagines them together now and “turning Heaven on their heels”. I hope she’s right. He is survived by his mother, Shirley, brothers, Larry (Marcia) and Leonard, sister Teresa, and daughters Amber and Samantha.
No services will be held, in accordance with his wishes. A marker and possible small interment will occur at Hillcrest Cemetery, next to “the greatest man to have ever lived”. The majority of my father’s ashes will be returned to the mountains he loved to rest there forever.
If you’re looking to make a donation or memorialize his life, donations may be made to the local Elks (Lodge 1737). When we’re allowed to again, you might also consider grabbing a rum and coke from your local watering hole (that’s Bacardi silver rum, and most importantly no lime). Finally, take a listen to The Dance by Garth Brooks (or better yet, grab a dance partner for it), call up that person you think you burned bridges with and fix it, tell those that you love that you love them, and take pride in where you are from. That’s what I’ll remember about my dad.
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