Date: August 2, 2008
About: Leroy Politsch - Class of 1940
Politsch Hits Bulls-eye Spreading Joy in Life
It has been more than 20 years since Lee Politsch closed the doors to his sporting goods store on the corner of Eighth and Jefferson, and these days, the inside of the building bears little resemblance to the ever-popular store.
Then you spot a canoe paddle, leaning in the corner where the north and west walls meet.
Immediately, you turn the clock back to a day when you were 8 years old, tagging along with your dad as Politsch engaged you with stories of canoe trips in Minnesota and Canada.
As he spoke, he gestured to the mural splashed across the west wall, high above the counter. It was of the rapids in a spot Politsch once canoed, and he told you in exact detail his memories of the photo being taken.
In fact, his memories of a life filled by adventure and friendship were so stunningly vivid you didn't drop by to chat for only a minute. You cleared your schedule.
And an hour or two later, you left awestruck.
Politsch died last weekend, having lived a grand 86 years in which he was an authority on archery and canoeing and influenced generations of outdoorsmen. He was one of the founders of the Wenois Field Archers, serving as president from 1951-57 and as the club's unofficial historian in retirement.
In 2003, the club named its lifetime achievement award in Politsch's honor.
It was a fitting tribute, one that will remind generations to come of Politsch's influence.
What those future archers and outdoorsmen won't experience is the personal touch Politsch gave to every customer or visitor.
Last winter was the last time I visited with Politsch, the first time in years I had been inside the building that once housed the sporting goods store. The memories flooded back immediately, and I felt like a kid again listening to his stories.
This time, they weren't just of canoe trips and archery contests.
He delved into his fondness for the Prince Valiant comic strip and his correspondence with Hal Foster, the creator of the epic adventure. Politsch and Foster developed a rapport, trading letters and Politsch sending homemade arrows to Foster.
Each letter Politsch received was slipped in a sleeve, placed in a folder and kept for posterity. As Politsch laid them out on a table and talked about each one as if he had received it just yesterday, there was a glimmer in his eye and smile on his face.
The same glimmer and same smile existed as Politsch talked about the friends who came to visit -- some did errands for him, others just dropped by to chat. You could see how important those interludes were to him.
He admitted to getting tired and knew his body was wearing out on him, but his mind and his memory were as sharp as a tack. He was an intellectual who penned a letter to send to family and friends each Christmas.
These weren't "brag sheets," as he once called Christmas letters, but a way of telling stories from a lifetime filled with unique tales.
In 2006, at the urging of friends, he collected his letters into a 77-page book that was titled "One Man's Life: Observations and Joys."
It was a fitting title because few people you will ever meet will be as observant as Politsch, and few will have lived a life filled with as much joy.
Looking back at the book and reading a few letters, I discovered a deeper meaning to the title. His life wasn't solely about the joys he experienced, but rather, it was about the joy he gave to those around him.