EAST PEORIA - Ralph Steven Poliak, 67, of East Peoria, Ill., died at 7:07 a.m. Saturday, April 26, 2014, at the OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home in Peoria, Ill.
Ralph was born to Stephen and E. Marie Briere Poliak on June 20, 1946, in Milwaukee, Wis. Longtime Peoria area residents may remember Steve Poliak as the second-shift foreman of the Pabst Brewery in Peoria Heights and Marie Poliak as an active member of St. Monica's Church in East Peoria. The eldest of four siblings, he took his "big brother" responsibilities seriously and lovingly. He is survived by his siblings, Jan (Joe) Vanecko of Metamora, Ill., Pat (the late Jerry) Ferrell of Peoria, Ill., and Bob (the late Connie) Poliak of Peoria, Ill.
Ralph spent his childhood riding his bicycle with neighborhood friends, exploring the creek and forest near his home and, in general, making mischief, according to his sisters. In high school, he ran track, played the violin in the school orchestra and served as president of the Industrial Education Club, where he first learned his drafting skills.
Following graduation from East Peoria Community High School in 1965, he served our country in the U.S. Navy, where he spent time in Vietnam and Guam, with frequent trips to Australia. He was especially proud of the time he served as a ballistic winds operator at the Fleet Weather Center/Joint Typhoon Warning Center, where he had an opportunity to fly with the hurricane hunter squadron into "banana storm" typhoons.
Ralph married Evelyn Claassen on Aug. 6, 1983. Together they raised their three children, Rita Allen of East Peoria, Matthew Poliak of Clarksville, Tenn., and Brian (Heather) Poliak of Gallatin, Tenn.; and two grandchildren, Owynn and Ethan. They survive. Evelyn preceded him in death.
Professionally, Ralph was an electrical engineer who enjoyed repairing motherboards and, along with his skills as an architect, designing mobile CAT scan and MRI units, which made diagnostic radiology accessible in rural American cities.
Ralph's hobbies included fishing, kayaking and watching hawks soar. He loved "the Good Lord," his wife, his family, wildlife and steam-powered trains. He used his carpentry and woodworking skills, passed down from his father and grandfather, to help friends and neighbors with DIY projects. He spent his time praying, writing letters to his Aunt Helen, watching John Wayne movies, "talking tools and computers" with his friends, Jack and Judie, and "talking food and books" with his friends, Jerry and Gloria.
He was a member of Mount Olive Missionary Church in Peoria.
A service for Ralph will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 1, 2014, at Mt. Olive Missionary Church in Peoria. Pastor Mark Douras will officiate. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the church. Cremation rites will be accorded and inurnment will be in Swan Lake Memory Garden at a later date.
Memorials may be made to his daughter, Rita Allen, to assist with Ralph's medical expenses.
His family wishes to thank the following for their love, care, prayers and support during Ralph's lengthy illness: our extended family, friends and neighbors, the congregation of Mt. Olive Missionary Church, the staff and volunteers of the OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home, the staff and volunteers of Illinois Cancer Care, the staff and support group at the Hult Center for Healthy Living, the Brain Injury Group of Central Illinois, Companions on a Journey support group and the staff of 1700 Oncology at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
Ralph's memorial website is available at www.deitersfuneralhome.com, where condolences may also be sent to the family.