Margaret Ann Polak
January 2, 1931 – December 29, 2020
Margaret Ann Polak, 89, the matriarch of four generations, who was known for her compassion and servant heart, died of complications from COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020. She was surrounded virtually and in person by the family she cherished.
Margaret found joy in altruism, inspired by her deep Catholic faith. She worked in soup kitchens, led a sandwich ministry to feed the homeless, and spent years helping people rebuild their lives as a volunteer for the St. Vincent DePaul Society – alongside her beloved husband Jim. Together they also said yes to foster parenting, opening their home to two young girls while raising their five children.
A former beauty queen (Miss Cotton Belt, 1952), Margaret radiated charm and elegance. She was a trained soprano whose sublime voice graced a range of tunes, from Ave Maria to The Beach Boys. Fellowship with others enriched her years living in Indiana, Florida and Texas. Margaret was active in the Indianapolis Rose Society, Austin Newcomers Club, dance and bridge groups, a poetry circle, and “Singles Over Sixty,” a ministry she created that still endures today at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
Margaret Ann Ernst was born on Jan. 2, 1931 in New Orleans, one of three children of Albert Charles Ernst and Christine Vinent Ernst. The family embraced small-town life in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where Margaret spent her youth. A standout student, she skipped two grades and graduated at 16 as Salutatorian of Pine Bluff High School. While working as a secretary for The Cotton Belt Railway, Margaret met the love of her life, James C. Polak, a mechanical design engineer. They married in 1953 and later settled in Indianapolis, where Jim worked 37 years for Detroit Diesel Allison, General Motors.
Generosity came naturally to Margaret. When she received a small inheritance from her aunt as a young woman, she spent all of it on a house for her parents, and bought their first car. That giving spirit extended to her own children and their loved ones, and she made financial sacrifices to help anyone in need.
All her life, Margaret strived to cultivate humility (“beauty is on the inside,” she often told her kids). She attended daily Mass for decades, brought Communion to the homebound as a Eucharistic Minister, and planted the seeds of her faith in generations to come.
Resolute in her beliefs, Margaret said she did not fear death. That mindset was evident early on, in this poem she wrote as a young girl:
There is a more beautiful world than this
Somewhere beyond the sky
A haven of peace and perfect bliss
Our resting place when we die
Margaret is survived by her five children and their spouses, whom she loved dearly: Barbara (and husband Pat); Meg; Jim (and wife Brandee, whose devotion to Margaret’s care in her final years moved us all deeply); Mary Ann (and husband Chris); and John. She was also a beloved “Nana” to 15 grandchildren and their spouses, and 21 great-grandchildren, and is also survived by her wonderful nieces and nephews. Margaret is preceded in death by Jim, her loving husband of 48 years, and by her parents, Albert and Christine, and her dear brothers, the Rev. Albert C. Ernst and John L. Ernst.
The family would like to thank the heroic front-line workers at Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the devoted caregivers who tended to Margaret at Marquette Senior Living Community.
A small private funeral Mass will be held on Jan. 12 and live-streamed from Our Lady of Peace Cemetery in Indianapolis. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
- Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Livestream Mass of Christian Burial
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Margaret Ann Polak
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Charles and Dora Gembinski
January 12, 2021
We will miss our dear and sweet friend, Margaret. May she rest in peace. Our prayers and love to her family.
January 11, 2021
Mrs. Margaret Polak and her family made a deep impression in my life - from infancy to present. She was such a kind and caring person that gave more of herself than anybody I know. Please know that Barb, Meg, Jim, Mary Ann, John and their families are in the prayers of my wife Liz anad I. May we all meet again someday in heaven.
January 7, 2021
I’ll never forget Mrs Polaks’s beautiful smile and how sweet she was to our family. May God bless her sons, daughters and grandchildren during this time and bring them Peace. The Henry Heyl Family
Leslie Crockett Lentz
January 6, 2021
My condolences to all the Polak family. I remember your mother as such a beautiful, kind woman.
Leslie Crockett Lentz