Gary Powalish enjoyed life to the max


Gary Powalish (1951-2024)

Gary Stephen Powalish, went by many nicknames. He was affectionately known as Gare-Bear, Pops, Papa, and Polack (to name a few). He was born October 21, 1951. Gary passed away unexpectedly on February 3, 2024, at the age of 73, surrounded by his loved ones. 

He was the oldest child of Harry and Anne Powalish. Gary graduated from Hinsdale South High School in Darien, IL. Soon after, he met the love of his life Cynthia (Cindy) Brontsema. At this point, he knew he was the luckiest man in the world. Gary welcomed each day acknowledging that it was a great day to be alive, as well as reminding whoever was near him how good he looked.

Gary and Cindy were married on September 1973, in what he confidently proclaimed as “the best wedding ever.” He enjoyed telling and repeating every detail of their wedding during the 50 years they were together. Their love was something truly beautiful and an inspiration for many.

Gary entered the steel industry at a company called Scot Forge where he proudly wore plaid jackets and spent 34 years of his life, sharing his unwavering work ethic, loyalty, humor, and his what-you-see-is-what-you-got personality. He never shied away from teaching those around him the “7 Ps” of proper planning.

In 1976, Gary and Cindy built their forever home in Roscoe, Illinois, where they raised three amazing children, Michael, Christie, and Mark. He was extremely proud of them. Mike, a worldly traveler, Christie’s time in athletics, and Mark’s conversations about stocks, compound interest (“it’s a beautiful thing”) and their beloved Chicago Bears, not to mention Mark’s ability to ruffle his feathers in such a loving way that all Gary could do was laugh. He also welcomed Christie and Mark’s spouses (Karl and Amy) into the family with open arms as if they were his own. Gary never had a problem letting them know they were his favorites over a nice glass of “tea” (no earlier than 5). Let’s also not forget every single one of Mike’s friends. He adored them all, regardless of who they voted for or if they were Packer fans. His kid’s favorites were his favorites, too.

Gary’s hard work, coupled with the fact that according to his calculations, he made perhaps less than a dozen mistakes a year, allowed him to enjoy an early retirement. This early retirement proved to be priceless as it allowed him to spend invaluable amounts of time with his family and friends.

Upon retirement, Gary was fortunate enough to make breakfast for Cindy and the family if they were around. But he “didn’t make toast!” (despite Karl always somehow finding a piece of buttered toast on his plate). Gary was able to take his family on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa to visit his son Mark and Amy while they worked there. Gary and Cindy were also able to travel to Europe to see the tulips in the Netherlands and learn about vodka in Poland alongside their very own tour-guide/travel agent extraordinaire, Mike.

They enjoyed cruises, dinners, plays, concerts, workouts, and many other events with friends, siblings, and in-laws, along with multiple trips to see his grandkids, always keeping track to make sure he was spending equal time with each family every year. Other highlights included seeing a total solar eclipse, attending the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta, and going on a yearly fishing trip with Karl to North Dakota, where the beer was cold, the walleyes were plentiful, and the talk was smart (that’s for damn sure!). Gary and Cindy also spent many seasons enjoying their place in beautiful Carefree, Arizona, where he mastered the thermostat and even took an interest in art.

Although these adventures were amazing, the true highlight of his retirement was having and enjoying his grandkids, where he entertained Jackson (11.5), Nathan (9), Audrey (8.5) and Grace (6) with non-stop chit-chat, swimming in the pool, silver coins, hidden trap doors, scavenger hunts, cheering them on in all their activities, and other high jinks. However, it was his love that he gave them most.

Gary had an effect on people, and you couldn’t help but like him, or at least walk away with a chuckle. It’s certain Gary already knows how much he is missed in this world, but he will be patiently waiting until we meet again.

Gary was preceded in death by his mother Anne (Prengel) Powalish and father Harry Powalish, father-in-law Henry Brontsema, mother-in-law Edith (Lenhardt) Brontsema, and brother-in-law, Mark Brontsema.

He is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Cynthia (Brontsema) Powalish, children Michael Powalish, Christie (Karl) Koester, Mark (Amy) Powalish, grandchildren Jackson Koester, Nathan Koester, Audrey Powalish and Grace Powalish, siblings Sharon (Joel) Hawkins, David (Sue) Powalish, Glen (Linda) Powalish, brother’s-in-law Ted (Mary) Brontsema and David (Doris) Brontsema, sister-in-law Sandy (Justin) Bellis, and many special nieces and nephews.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, March 11 at 11 a.m. at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Roscoe, Illinois, with appetizers immediately following at Gary’s favorite place – The Butterfly Club in Beloit, Wisconsin. In memory of Gary, please consider donating to one of his favorite charities: The American Heart Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the United Service Organization (USO).

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