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Who we lost Ky: I am my father's daughter - story about Michael Polonus

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WUKY is collaborating with Martha Greenwald, creator and curator of 'Who We Lost KY' a writing project where friends and families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic pay tribute and in some cases, say their final goodbyes. Today’s essay comes from Janet Rauscher from Jefferson County about her father Michael Polonus.

The last time I saw my father was on November 16, 2019. Because of his failing health, he was put in a nursing home. Then COVID arrived and the lockdowns began. Ten days after he entered the nursing home, he died alone on a floor from neglect. I believe that there are so many others who died of neglect during the start of the pandemic. They are not counted as COVID deaths but they would still be alive if their families could have checked on them.

Because of my own immune issues, I could not attend his funeral. I wrote these words immediately after I found out that he had died:

My Dad died on April 7, 2020. He entered the world with nothing and left with nothing but he left a lot behind in this world.

He was raised in Elmhurst, IL with his brother Dick. They were 2nd generation Americans with their family roots in Lithuania. His grandparents came to America during the potato famine and entered through Ellis Island, settling in the Chicago area.

My Dad did not have much when he was a child, hand me down clothes and sticks for toys, but he worked hard and paid his way through college, then worked his way up the ladder to become a successful businessman.

My father was a man of principles.

#1 – Work hard.

#2 – Never lie, cheat or steal. He was the most honest man you will ever know.

#3 – He was generous; boy was he ever.

He loved meeting people; he would talk to any one with genuine warmth and compassion.

He didn’t care who you were, if you were hard working and honest he would give you a chance and the shirt off his back.

He believed in education and paid for his children’s education; allowing my brother and me the gift of graduating debt free. He wanted us to be successful and pushed us to set a high standard of excellence. He said that if you had an education and worked hard, that’s all you needed in life to succeed.

He made his children responsible from a very young age; chores and tasks were part of everyday life. We have that work ethic still today. My brother and I are two of the most responsible people I know. It’s funny how, even though my brother and I are very different people, we are also very much the same because of the values that my father instilled in us.

He believed in quality – buy quality and take care of things he would say – they should last forever. Any person that purchased a used car from my Dad got the best used car money could buy; immaculate, all services performed, records kept – they were like new.

He loved his grandchildren and wanted to share his success with them. He supported their education and traveled with each of them as they came of age. He allowed me the opportunity to travel the world with him also. We had so much fun on our trips. That is such a special gift that he gave to me.

I have his hair, I have his teeth, I have his eyes and as I age, I look in the mirror and I have his face. I have so many qualities of his that I have both loved and cursed, but now that he is gone, they are all beautifully special to me. I am my father’s daughter and for that I will forever be proud and humbled.

Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.