Michael S. Polien died of complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on May 9, 2021. He was 78.
Born in Cleveland on Sept. 30, 1942, Mike was the youngest of three children and was raised for most of his childhood by a single mother, first in the housing projects of Cleveland and later in Cleveland Heights. Money was scarce, so Mike delivered newspapers. One day, he told his family he was worried about two elderly women on his route because they appeared frail and the way they counted their money when he came to collect made him think they were needy. His mother called the city to request a welfare check. Although the women declined assistance, they were grateful Mike cared.
After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School in 1960, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he proudly served until 1963 when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s military budget cuts forced Mike’s reluctant transition to being a reservist. Throughout his life, Mike spoke frequently about his Navy days, which provided technical training and the opportunity to travel. For a time, he served alongside his older brother, Phil.
A mutual friend introduced Mike to his wife, Eva (nee Alpert), and the two married in 1966. While working full-time in electrical technology and raising a family, Mike attended night classes at Hickock Technical Institute, earning an associate degree in electronics and later becoming an instructor there. Mike retired from electronics in 2008 and soon after procured a part-time job in the fitness area at the Solon Recreation Center. A morning person and chatty by nature, he was often assigned the 5 a.m. shift, which allowed him to schmooze with residents who exercised before work. When asked why he would awaken so early for a retirement job, he maintained it was more social than work.
A member of Park Synagogue, he was a Cleveland sports fan (his family recalls him throwing a shoe at the television during an especially frustrating Browns game), a history and science buff, and an avid reader.
Mike is survived by his wife of 54 years, Eva; daughter, Nina (Jeffrey) Light; son, Brandon (Rena) Polien; grandchildren, Simone, Sarah and Miriam Light, and Leah and Alex Polien; and sister, Elaine Spiegel. He was predeceased by his brother, Phillip Polien.
Private family services were held May 12 at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel. Interment was at Bet Olam Cemetery.
Visitation for vaccinated adults only, masks required from 2 to 4 p.m. May 14 at the Light Residence, 320 Tahoe Trail in Orange.
Contributions are suggested to the Park Synagogue Hunger/Mitzvah Fund (parksynagogue.org).