Meet Joe Polka

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

He’s just as adept at staffing the snake station during a special event as he is at serving refreshments.

Joe is also a pretty good cook. For Burr Oak Woods’ Public Work Days, the staff always bring in a pot of chili, homemade soup or dessert. Joe will be in the midst of things with one of his famous chilies. For the last several years, he has also begun a tradition of making corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a staff favorite around here, and we are very thankful that he willingly shares his enthusiasm for the luck of the Irish.

Ever learning, growing and sharing

An avid reader, Joe delights in being the first to find a new field guide or wildlife book offered at the bookstore. If he finds a good one, he’s been known to buy two copies and give one to a naturalist as a thank-you for helping him load equipment or for helping him put together a program. Or, he’ll donate it to the Nature Center reference library for all of the staff and volunteers to use.

Joe’s home library is chock-full of books on birds, mammals, butterflies, trees, wildflowers, gardening, native plants, reptiles, amphibians, and whatever his latest interest might be. Occasionally, he’ll weed through his library and bring an armload of books to the Nature Center reference library as a personal donation. The staff and volunteers continue to learn from his gifts.

At a recent Managers’ Meeting held in Springfield, Missouri, this article was mentioned. The topic, of course, was Joe Polka reaching 10,000 hours of service with the Missouri Department of Conservation. All of the other nature center managers expressed their thanks and gratitude for Joe’s selfless dedication. Linda Chorice, nature center manager at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center said, “That is so cool. Isn’t it something to know about the special people like Joe, even though he’s not even at our site!”

Home away from home

Joe Polka turned 72 this year, but he has the strength and stamina of a much younger man. Perhaps giving so much of himself is what keeps him so young. There have been times when the staff has teased him because he seems to be at the nature center whenever the doors are open. But suggestions to “go home and get some rest,” go unheeded. Perhaps we’re all just selfish enough to be glad our advice is ignored.

Joe has

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