Chuck Polfus: ‘Bye, for now’
Those who knew him best will probably never forget the way Chuck Polfus — who passed away last week at the age of 78 — would affectionately say “bye, for now” or “write when you find work.”
Both phrases, according to his wife, Mary Chelberg-Polfus, are ones Chuck used often.
“He was a very humble and loving man,” Mary said. “He never wanted to show off and was always thinking of others. He enriched my life and the life of his children. I loved him very much. He filled many happy years of my life.”
Charles Brady “Chuck” Polfus died peacefully surrounded by his family on Tuesday, May 31, at home on Lake Wapogasset in Amery.
According to Mary, Polfus battled Parkinson’s.
Chuck is preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Olive (Utgaard) Polfus, sister Nancy Lou Polfus, and brother Michael Polfus. He is survived by his wife, Mary (Moe) Chelberg-Polfus, sons Larry (LuAnn) Chelberg, Jeff (Jodi) Chelberg, Chris (Toni) Polfus, daughters Nancy Polfus and Sally (Doug) Emerson, 13 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews and friends.
“He meant so much to me and I was extremely lucky — since I was adopted — to get a dad like him,” said son Chris Polfus. “He did so much for so many people, and a lot of it was things people didn’t know about, too. He took care of my family when we needed the help. Even to his dying day he was asking us what he could do for us.”
Funeral services were held at First Lutheran Church in Amery on Saturday, June 4, while the visitation was held at Williamson-White Funeral Home on Friday. The burial was conducted at West Immanuel Cemetery.According to Mary, there were around 500 people who attended the visitation and First Lutheran was filled to capacity for the service.
“Everybody you would have talked to at the funeral would have told you a story about how good he treated them or of someone they heard who Chuck went out of his way to help when he didn’t have to,” Mary said. “He was a very caring person and he put family above everything else.”
Polfus was born in New Richmond on June 5, 1937. He graduated from New Richmond High School in 1955 and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1959 with a degree in business. He was also enlisted in the Army National Guard. While married to Barb Olson he became father to Chris and Nancy, and with his beloved Mary Ann at his side for nearly 30 years, he became father to Larry, Jeff and Sally.
After spending a short time as a blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe, Polfus returned to New Richmond to take over Polfus Implement from his father, Clarence. For the next 50 years, Polfus ran Polfus Implement — which would later become Frontier Ag & Turf — dealing in John Deere equipment. Polfus retired from Frontier in December 2012.
“He was a mentor to me and his character had a huge impact on me and the business he ran for so long,” said former employee and current owner of Frontier Ag & Turf, Greg Christenson. “He was caring and compassionate with a great sense of how to treat people right and with respect. He had the strongest character of anyone I’ve ever met. And those characteristics were consistently there and always a constant trait of his. His caring and compassion never wavered.”
One of Chuck’s close friends throughout his life, due to the pair’s fathers being business partners, was John Soderberg, chairman of the board at First National Community Bank.
“He was a good businessman and a very fair person,” Soderberg said. “His fairness and ability to deal with people is why the company is where it is now. We would consult with each other about the business and talk about our ideas. If he told me something, I knew it was true, and I like to think that was the same for him when I told him something.”
Along with his love of his family and caring for other people, Polfus also loved music, traveling, collecting cars, auto racing, blackjack and the Beach Boys.
“He loved to travel and he wanted to travel with [his kids],” Chris said. “The trips we went on were great. He took us to the West Coast and to Vegas. The trips were never extravagant, but they were still a great time. He loved to travel but he didn’t want to be flamboyant.”
Not only did Chuck’s fun-loving nature affect his family, but it also had an effect on those who were around him every day at work and in the community.
“He loved to have fun and he was just fun to be around,” Christenson said. “His spirit was amazing and is another part of his legacy that will live on in the company.”
As a final tribute to his father’s many years working at Polfus Implement/Frontier Ag. & Turf, Chris arranged for two John Deere tractors (provided by Frontier Ag & Turf) and a restored Polfus Implement truck (provided by Johnson Motors) to escort the hearse to the cemetery. Polfus’s grandsons drove the tractors and the truck during the procession.