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Jacob Polta

August 22, 2012
The Journal

Mar. 26, 1928

Aug. 18, 2012

Jacob John Polta, 84, longtime Willmar resident and English teacher at Willmar High School, died Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

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The service is at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar, with the Rev. Jerry Paulson officiating, followed by burial in the church cemetery.

Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar and one hour prior to the service at the church.

Jake, as he was known to family and friends, was born Mar. 26, 1928, in New Ulm to Jacob and Emilie Polta. He grew up in New Ulm, graduating from Trinity High School in 1946 as class valedictorian. He earned a bachelor's degree from St. John's University in 1950 and completed a master's degree in education from the University of Minnesota in 1963.

In 1952 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War as a radio operator.

On June 25, 1955, he married Ruth M. Groebner in New Ulm. They shared 57 years of a happy marriage that included raising five children.

Jake's career in teaching spanned almost 40 years, during which countless students passed through his classroom. He was a teacher in Holdingford, Minn., for five years before coming to Willmar in 1960, where he taught English until retiring in 1993. Students knew "Mr. Polta" as a rigorous but fair teacher who introduced them to the world of Shakespeare's plays, essay tests and the research papers nicknamed "Polta papers." He was honored as Willmar's Teacher of the Year in 1969.

Outside the classroom, he devoted many hours to extracurriculars. He was the adviser and photographer for the school newspaper and was also the yearbook photographer for more than 25 years. As senior class adviser, he oversaw the Willmar High School graduation ceremony for the Classes of 1961 through 1984.

Jake was active at St. Mary's Church as one of the very first lectors. He was on the parish council and on the board of directors that established the Religion in Life Center at Ridgewater College.

Always intellectually curious, he had many interests: photography, gardening, reading, history, travel and current events.

Jake is survived by his wife, Ruth; his children, Mary Polta, Anne Polta, John (and Anne) Polta, Catherine (and Mark) Winkelhake and Joseph (and Karen) Polta; his grandchildren, Andrew Polta, Margaret Polta, Daniel Polta, Thomas Polta, Brad (and Ashley) Winkelhake, and Dan Winkelhake.

He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister, Margaret Gallery and an infant daughter, Teresa.

Memorials are preferred to the Park Nicollet Foundation for the Heart and Vascular Center (, the St. Mary's Foundation of Willmar, or Habitat for Humanity.



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