Bernard Poelker

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Bernard H. Poelker, 97, of Belleville, Illinois, died Tuesday, June 23, 2020 at Dammert Geriatric Center, The Esquiline at The Shrine, in Belleville.

Ben was born February 26, 1923 in New Baden, Illinois, where he grew up like his rural neighbors: poor, but unconcerned because the garden, hunting and odd jobs kept them fed. A love of sports made him wish he’d been an athlete, but a knack for studies turned him into a scholar: his family’s first high school student and his class’ valedictorian.

World War II called after high school, when Ben was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served three years in the Infantry Ordnance with 18 months in New Guinea, Dutch East Indies and the Philippines and earned two battle stars. His payoff, though, was the chance to attend college. Ben graduated from Washington University in 1950 with a degree in Architectural Engineering.

Later that year he married Marcella A. Husmann. After five years in St. Louis they settled in Belleville, where they helped build a new Catholic parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, and dove into life with a family that grew to six children.

Ben had a long and varied career working for Fruin Colnon Corporation, the St. Louis construction firm.  During his 35-year tenure with Fruin Colnon, he saw their scope of construction and engineering services change from a local to an international operation and spent many weeks traveling the world (but always back by Friday). He served as Vice President of Fruin Colnon Corporation and later, President and Chairman of the Board of Fruco Engineers, their design subsidiary. He was a registered professional engineer in seven states.

Ben believed in supporting community. He was a board member of Call For Help in Edgemont, Illinois; past president and member of The Serra Club of St. Clair County; board member for the Hincke Residence Home for Retired Priests; active in Our Lady Queen of Peace parish as lector, in the RCIA program, on the School Board and Long Range Planning committees.

He was a talented wordsmith whose stories about growing up are fortunately preserved in a family journal. His artistic gifts extended to painting, both watercolor and oil, and photography. His yard was the most public palette, with perennials and bird feeders providing the basis for great conversations about getting plants and birds to do what you want. (Basically, you have to put in the work.)

Retirement afforded Ben the opportunity to use millions of air miles to travel with Marcella and a group of friends to far-off places, and to take road trips to see his children and grandkids. Ever learning, Ben often planned these trips around Elderhostel sessions where he and Marcella tackled topics like poetry and history.

Ben instilled a love for trout fishing within his growing family by organizing regular trips to Montauk and Bennett Springs State Parks in Missouri, a tradition that lasts today and more important for the family togetherness it sponsors than the actual fishing. He was a patient Cardinals fan who appreciated the LaRussa years.

Ben was a wonderful man who made doing the right thing look easy, even when it wasn’t. He gave advice only when asked and you could count on it. His family made him happy, but his grands and great-grands really made him smile.

Surviving are two daughters: Jane (Alan) Goepfert, Millstadt, Illinois; Therese (Mark) Toback, Soquel, California; four sons, David (Lillian) Poelker, Houston, Texas; Matthew (Kimberly) Poelker, Yorktown, Virginia; John (Alanna) Poelker of Andover, Massachusetts; and Stephen (Donna) Poelker of Oakville, Missouri; 13 grandchildren, Christina (Jason) Rodriguez; Jenna (Doyle) Murphy; Anne (Patrick) McCarte; Joshua (Kela) Toback; Rachel and Asher Toback; Zachary, Joseph and Max Poelker; Gregory and Elise Poelker-McKee; and Andrew and Kristin Poelker; and four great grandchildren, Hailey and Cora McCarte, Montgomery Toback and Jack Murphy.

Memorials can be made for masses or to Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Belleville, Illinois.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, visitation and a funeral mass will be private.

Condolences:

18 Comments on Bernard Poelker

Rich and Janice Hovey said : Guest Report Jul 02, 2020 at 1:48 PM

I'm sorry for your loss. I was at their house often when I was a teenager. Ben helped me decide to become an engineer. He raised a great family.

  • Birmingham
  • AL
Sean Murphy said : Guest Report Jun 30, 2020 at 6:55 PM

Although I never met Ben, the obituary did an incredible job of describing an amazing, full life. It’s not surprising that his son, my neighbor, John, is such a quality individual, and a guy I’m lucky enough to call friend. My condolences to the family.

  • Andover
  • Massachusetts
Mark Wehking said : Guest Report Jun 30, 2020 at 10:37 AM

I'm very sorry to hear of Ben's passing. My memories of working with him at Frucon are some of the best. I'm glad he had such a long and full life.

  • Manchester
  • Missouri
Andrea McKee said : Guest Report Jun 30, 2020 at 2:57 AM

Dear Ben, Thank you! You and Marcella raised a very blessed family. Am so thankful that my daughter Alanna and our grandchildren are part of it. With much love, Andrea

  • San Jose
  • California
Mary and Doyle Henken said : Guest Report Jun 28, 2020 at 5:50 PM

We send our deepest sympathy and prayers at this difficult time.

  • Houston
  • Missouri
Debbie Barco said : Guest Report Jun 28, 2020 at 6:44 AM

My dad, Bob Barco, worked with Ben for many years at Fruin-Colnon. The two names are interchangeable! My dad had the highest respect for him. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • St Louis
  • MO
Patty Calles Baker said : Guest Report Jun 27, 2020 at 6:08 PM

So sorry for your loss. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Overland Park
  • KS
Terri and Neil Komosny said : Guest Report Jun 27, 2020 at 4:58 PM

We'd like to extend our sincere sympathy. Neil and I both worked with Ben at Fruin Colnon for many years. I have so many fond memories of him as he was one of the nicest, most sincere person I've had the pleasure to have known. What an interesting life he lived.

  • Chesterfield
  • Missouri
tom watkins said : Guest Report Jun 27, 2020 at 2:38 PM

ben and marcella were my neighbors for many years. in all my life i have never known a finer gentleman. rip. tom watkins

  • belleville
  • il.
Ad and Sandy Kolta said : Guest Report Jun 26, 2020 at 2:27 PM

Ben was a wonderful friend to everyone at Fru-Con. Our sincere condolences to your family.

  • St. Louis
  • MO
Bill Manz said : Guest Report Jun 26, 2020 at 2:10 PM

I worked at Fruco Engineers for Mr. Poelkler for 24 years. He was always the kindest, honest and truely the greatest man of his generation.

  • Oakville
  • Mo
Bob Wilson said : Guest Report Jun 26, 2020 at 12:08 PM

Ben was a friend to everyone he met and I always looked forward to his bright smile and friendly greeting. He was a real bright spot in my years at Fru-Con. He will be missed.

  • Chesterfield
  • MO
Raymond A Renner said : Guest Report Jun 26, 2020 at 10:43 AM

Ben was a great guy. I worked with him at Fruin-Colnon and always appreciated his council. We visited several times at the Dammert Center when my Mother-in-law was a resident and the talk always drifted back to the Fruin-Colnon days. Godspeed Ben RIP.

  • Swansea
  • Illinois
Monsignor John Myler said : Guest Report Jun 25, 2020 at 3:38 PM

A good man. a lovely couple. Requiescat in pace.

  • Belleville
  • Illinois
Jackie Treesh said : Guest Report Jun 25, 2020 at 3:15 PM

Sorry for you loss, your dad was a very sweet, kind man.

  • Beleville
  • Illinois
Joyce and Greg Garbs said : Guest Report Jun 25, 2020 at 8:11 AM

Our deepest sympathies with you and your family. Of all the relations on the Poelker side of the Garbs family, your family was the closest. We will miss Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben has earned a cherished place in heaven. Love

  • Streator
  • Illinois
Sarah Poelker said : Guest Report Jun 25, 2020 at 6:05 AM

Godspeed. May you be as blessed in the next life as you were in this one.

  • Mascoutah
  • Illinois
Susie Poelker Cisna said : Guest Report Jun 24, 2020 at 9:12 PM

My Uncle Ben was an amazing man. So grateful to have known him. Sending hugs to my cousins.

  • Effingham
  • IL

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