Celebrating the Life of a Polka King

Even though I’m not Catholic, I want a polka Mass when I die.

I just got back from one of the most uplifting celebrations of life – the funeral of Mr. Willie Cernoch, the father of my dear friend and colleague, Theresa Parker. Mr. Cernoch passed away last week after never fully recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident the week after Easter. His funeral was a polka mass, in which the music and congregational responses are all sung to the ump-pa-pa of a polka band, complete with accordion player. Mr. Cernoch always said it was hard to be sad when listening to polka music, and he was right. (For more about this wonderful husband, father and polka king, read Theresa’s Father’s Day tribute to him in the blogpost below.)

 About 40 of his fellow members of the Polka Lovers Klub of America were there in their red and white polka dancing outfits singing polka songs during the service. I feel so fortunate to have met and danced with many of them last October when Torma Communications and 2d Design Collaborative celebrated our 25th anniversaries. When Ellen Custer, the owner of 2d Design, and I decided to have an Oktoberfest, it helped that we had Theresa on our planning team to suggest not only a great dance hall in the Heights, but also to arrange to have her father’s polka club there to liven things up. That group of 70- and 80-somethings put us Baby Boomers to shame with their spirit and stamina!

The most touching part of Mr. Cernoch’s funeral service for me was at the end when it was time for the family’s procession from the sanctuary. The Polka Klub members lined the aisle of the church and sang choruses of “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, deep in my heart”  as Mr. Cernoch’s casket passed by, followed by his family. Even though I know their hearts were breaking to lose a good friend and fellow dancer, they still could celebrate a wonderful life with joy in their voices and a suppressed swing in their step.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cernoch. You will be missed.

Mr. Cernoch (front row, third from left, wearing crown) and his beloved Polka Klub of America.

Mr. Cernoch (front row, third from left, wearing crown) and his beloved Polka Klub of America.

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