John Polega, of Stevensville
John Joseph Polega, 14, of Stevensville, son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew and faithful Catholic died peacefully at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, with family gathered around at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, in Grand Rapids, (well cared for by all his nurses and doctors) following a long battle against cancer.
He was born on July 17, 2006, the night before his twin brother, Paul, in Mishawaka, to Timothy J. and Susan C. (Schlaefflin) Polega.
He attended elementary and middle school while living in Dhahran (Saudi Arabia) before and after living in the Michiana area.
John was a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Detroit. He received five sacraments: baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation (choosing his patron St. John the Apostle) and the Anointing of the Sick. John was always thankful to God and all who offered him help and comfort. He grew in gratitude even more so in his last month’s saying “Thank you!” all the time, even if it was just for their presence and smiles. His two final dreams were to ride in a helicopter and visit Our Lady of Guadalupe. John had a great passion for food especially mac and cheese, whipped cream, skittles, fun dip, hot chocolate and steak. He loved reading many different books like the Bible, Lords the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Inheritance series, Howl’s Moving Castle, Artemis Fowl, Warrior Cats, and Wings of Fire. He also loved movies and TV series such as Mary Poppins, The Incredibles, Pacific Rim, the MCU, Phineas and Ferb, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Full Metal Alchemist, Star Wars: Clone Wars Rebels and baking shows. He enjoyed playing games like Exploding Kittens, Uno, Othello and Catan. His hobbies included baking, walking, swimming/jacuzzi time, along with constructing imaginary worlds and stories. Other loves included praying Hail Mary’s for passing ambulances, snuggling with soft blankets, sneezing, dead pan humor, hugs, collecting realistic stuffed animals, saying “Hi!” to people, sharing his love and knowledge of space and science and smelling things.
He enjoyed all these beautiful and simple joys of childhood but was also notably an old soul who highly valued his ‘Peace and Quiet.’
John was one of those kids who you could watch for hours and be entertained. His laugh was contagious and his sass was unparalleled. One of his favorites — My Little Pony — showed kids how to battle their nightmares and that’s probably why he could relate. John was also a child genius and had a knack for explaining how things worked. When he got older, the possibility of completing a polar bear plunge became more likely as no water was too cold for J.
Surviving family includes his parents, Tim and Susan Polega, of Stevensville; John’s siblings, Thomas, Sarah, Erin, Rebekah, Katherine, Peter and John’s — minutes younger — twin, Paul Polega. Also surviving are his grandparents, JoAnn Flock, of Niles, and Marleen Schlaefflin, of Detroit; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
The Mass of Christian Burial for John Polega will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 3903 Lake St. in Bridgman, by the Rev. Arthur Howard of the parish. Those who prefer to witness the ceremony via the livestreamed broadcast may do so on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page: facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/. Committal Rites will be private on Monday at the graveside in Calvary Cemetery in Niles.
The family will receive relatives and friends from 5 until 8 p.m. at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 E. Main St., in Niles, with a Catholic Vigil and the Rosary for the Deceased prayed at 5 p.m. by Rev. Howard followed by sharing of memories. Contributions in memory of John may be made to the Mother Oda Vocational Training Center in Tanzania, motherodavtc.org/; or to the Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus, hsmcj.org/ingles/index.html; or the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation to put a smile on the face of a child fighting cancer, treasurechest.org/. Contributions to these organizations may be mailed to the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 E. Main St., Niles, MI 49120 for forwarding as intended. Online condolences may be left at: halbritterwickens.com.
John loved life in-spite of his challenges, was faithful to his Creator, and was a beloved son and brother, fulfilling our purpose in life to love God and love our neighbors.