“On a scale of 1-10, as people say, I think my life would be a 9. So, it’s been a good life… I’ve loved it.” Polly as recorded by her grandson Auguste as part of a fuller interview reflecting back on her life.
Polly Karin Thill Osterkamp, born October 7th, 1936, died March 20th, 2023 quietly, yet unexpectedly, in her home at the age of 86. She was fortunate to be in the arms of her daughter, Jenny, her husband, Daniel, and her granddaughter, Anavie.
Polly was a graduate of Minneapolis Southwest High School and attended the University of Minnesota, majoring in the unlikely combination of Art and Forestry. She married her first love John, who shared her passion of forest conservation, music and interior design, on November 19th, 1960. Creating a unique and authentic life together, they purchased an 83 acre homestead in then very rural West Lakeland Township. “Crazy” was a word uttered by friends more than once! Together, they thoughtfully designed and built their house and made the homestead their own by planting 40,000 red and white pine seedlings, which transformed the tilled farmland to a forest.
Polly and her husband John, cultivated a world view in the raising of their children and it was reflected in the art, friends and music with which they surrounded themselves. Racial and social justice were important to them both. Their extensive record collection of Blues and Jazz, taught their kids that the world was much bigger than just their own 80 acres.
Polly had a love of the arts, music and the Creation, and her home was surrounded by them all. She had an artistic influence on the things around her and brought an elegant, yet very down to earth perspective to everyday life.
Her love of people compelled her to help others in times of need. She always had the right words to share and showed by deed how much she cared. She made others feel safe, valued and at ease no matter who they were. She proved to be a loyal friend to many.
Polly cultivated a strong sense of self-knowledge, which allowed her to break with many traditions of the time. She loved bringing new young lives into this world. Her practice of midwifery and home births brought joy to many young families.
She was also an early advocate for fathers accompanying their wives in the delivery room, a nearly unheard of practice in the mid sixties. She was instrumental in starting the Washington County chapter of La Leche League, an international organization that supports breastfeeding mothers. She had a passion for family life and felt deeply that motherhood should be viewed as an honored profession.
Polly was a deeply spiritual person whose love of the bible shaped her life and values.
As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses she loved learning about the bible and sharing its hopeful message with others. She held a strong conviction of God’s promise to restore the earth to a paradise and its accompanying resurrection.
Her work within the congregation included volunteering frequently, offering help in the diverse areas of interior design and emergency first aid.
After the death of John, Polly found new life in her two young grandchildren, spending many hours with them as she opened Riverview Antiques in South Minneapolis. Sleepovers with “mormor” and the grandkids were a weekly occurrence. Polly had a great love of animals. Her beloved companion, Boomer, the ever-present black lab accompanied her everywhere.
In the spring of 2011 Polly and Dan Osterkamp, a long time friend, hopped a train to marry in Whitefish, Montana. Together they shared a strong commonality of Bible teachings and helping others in times of need. They loved theatre, live music and traveling to the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Despite her age, she never gave up on her passion for life, as she was saving her money in the cookie jar for a yellow convertible VW and was hoping to start French lessons in the spring.
Polly was preceded in death by her first husband E. John Thill of Stillwater and her parents Marguerite and Harold Fridlund of Minneapolis.
She is survived by her second husband Daniel of Stillwater, her sister Suzy (Paul Loftquist) of Bloomington, her three children, J. Gustave (Yvonne Thevenin) of Afton, Jenny Olivia (Brett Plumley) of Stillwater, Mara Gabriella (David Bernick) of Minneapolis and grandchildren, Auguste and Anavie Bernick of Minneapolis.
“I don't think my mama could ever decide if she wanted to be a forest ranger, a midwife, a dairy farmer, an ER nurse, a missionary or an art collector.
I'm so proud that she never really decided and integrated huge elements of them all into her life.”
I will forever miss talking with you each day… your intellect, caring nature, observations on human nature and total engagement in living is my reference point always!
I love you mama, thank you!
“My mother loved living! As a young girl, I fondly remember her teaching me a particular passage from the Bible. Philippians 4:8-9 says in part, ‘Whatever things are true, of serious concern, are righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous, praiseworthy, continue considering these things, and the God of peace will be with you.’ My mother tried to live by them and I will continue trying also.”
“I am grateful to be a child that grew up in the trees surrounded by love. Mama, you were fiercely strong, incredibly elegant and were always my safe place. I still can feel your hand in mine as a little girl and am forever grateful you taught me, by example and pure love, how to be a better mother to Auguste and Anavie.”
An open house and a celebration of Polly’s life will held on May 13th, 1-6 pm at the family’s home, 13274 24th Street North, Stillwater. Please feel free to call any of the family members for additional details.
Donations will be used for a family memorial garden in remembrance of Polly.