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Local News

Joliet woman 'thought of others first, herself last'

For 25 years, Polly Winke of Joliet greeted patients at New Lenox Dental.
For 25 years, Polly Winke of Joliet greeted patients at New Lenox Dental.

During Pauline "Polly" Winke’s funeral procession, the road to the chapel came to an unexpected end. All the cars had to back up, said George Winke of New Lenox, which meant Polly was the last to arrive.

“That was typical of her,” George said of his mother, who died Jan. 24 at the age of 88. “She thought of others first and herself last.”

Born to a Greek farming family whose produce often appeared at the former Honiotes Brothers grocery store in Joliet, Polly, of Joliet, was hospitable, frugal and trendsetting.

Her full basement and freezer testified to her dedication to coupon clipping; her re-upholstered furniture remained beautiful after many decades of wear. George said the Greek Orthodox Polly was the first non-Catholic to be accepted at the former College of St. Francis (now University of St. Francis) in Joliet, and her home at 261 N. Raynor Ave. matched her impeccable style.

“Back in the '60s, her home was featured in the Herald-News’ ‘Home of the week,’” said Dawn Winke of New Lenox, George’s wife.

As part owner/operator at Winke Studio in downtown Joliet, Polly booked appointments, kept the books and colored the portraits with oils. After her divorce, Polly, who valued education (she loved PBS and traveling, Dawn said), found a job that suited those interests.

Polly worked five years as a district sales person for World Book Encyclopedia, making certain family members had copies, Dawn said. Even as a volunteer with the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Winke’s friendly sales background served her well.

“She told the customers, ‘Those cookies go really well with that coffee,’” George said. “They would buy cookies along with the coffee without even realizing it.”

John Winke of Iowa, Polly’s son, said his mother taught him two things: hospitality and how to enjoy learning.

“It was my mom who taught me how to organize my work, learn my times tables and work hard,” John said. “In short, she taught me the value of academic discipline.  This is a skill that has served me well throughout my academic and work careers.”

John said Polly was the neighborhood mother that hosted sleepovers, grilled hot dogs and poured Hawaiian punch. That tradition continued into her three sons’ teen years (Tom Winke of Joliet, as well as John and George) by stocking the refrigerator with lunch meat and pizza.

Holiday dinners meant Greek cooking, Polly’s garlic mashed potatoes and plenty of company. A common sight was four leafs extending the dining room table, topped with Polly’s best China and silver, and Polly preparing food on two stoves.

“She’d have the turkey in a 1920 stove in her basement and food cooking on both cook tops,” George said.

Whenever Polly bought a new car, she passed the old one down to a grandchild, George said. When she worked at Winke Studio and Polly saw people waiting in the rain or cold at a bus stop, she freely offered them rides downtown.

That generosity continued during the 25 years Polly worked as office manager at New Lenox Dental, George said. Polly not only remembered each patient’s name, she made them feel comfortable and personally picked up anyone needing transportation. One couldn’t deny Polly’s signature sense of humor and boisterous laugh.

“If something was funny, you knew it,” Dawn said. “She’d laugh and laugh and laugh.”

• To feature someone in "An Extraordinary Life," contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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