Lois Polly Dunlap passed away peacefully during her sleep in the wee hours of January 11, 2024, in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, in the company of her family. She would have been 100 years old in April. She was born during a snowstorm on April 18, 1924, in Hancock in Upper Michigan, the daughter of Thomas and Bertha Prout. She was the fifth of six children—William, Harold, Thomas, Myrtle, and James—all of whom preceded her in death. She was married to Claude (“Scotty”) Dunlap, who passed away in 1976. She is survived by two daughters, Alice Dunlap-Kraft (Robert Kraft) of Chicago, and Charlotte Keeton (James) of Goodlettsville, and two nieces, Margee Stienecker Fitzwilliam of Menomonie WI and Joy Prout Duffy of Hollywood Park TX. She is also survived by her husband’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren by his first marriage.
Thomas Prout had immigrated from St Agnes Parish in Cornwall as a teenager under the sponsorship of his uncle in the UP. He had already worked in the mines as a youngster, when his job had been to fit into small spaces in the mines to spot seams of ore. Bertha John’s parents had immigrated before she was born and were already established in the Hancock area. Her job at the boarding house where Tom lived was baking hundreds of pasties every week for miners’ lunches. After her marriage to him she became a midwife and was known for having a watch with a “fly hand” for counting the seconds between contractions. Lois was born while her father, who had achieved status as an engineer at the Quincy Mine, was in California advising at a gold mine.
When Lois, as she was known in Hancock, graduated in1942 from Hancock High School, she was recognized for the skill she had acquired in bookkeeping and her precise and beautiful handwriting. She began working at the 7-Up Bottling Company across the bridge in Houghton, and in a few years moved to Chicago to work as a bookkeeper for a firm in the Loop. She lived at the Immanuel Woman’s Home near the current site of Carl Sandburg Village on Chicago’s Near North Side. She enjoyed having a quick lunch at Marshall Field’s and shopping for fabric for her sewing projects. She liked the big city, being lost in a crowd, and how much easier it was to find shoes that fit her very narrow feet.
A war-time correspondence with a Coast Guard member in Key West went astray and instead introduced her to Scotty. From opposite ends of Route 41 they began their own correspondence and, after only three meetings in person, became engaged. Polly, as she had by then come to be known, moved to Hastings, Nebraska, to start a new phase in her life as wife and, in a few years, mother to Alice.
In 1955 Scotty returned to his teaching career and they moved to Marengo, Illinois. The next year Charlotte was born and Polly put even more of her talents to use. While working part-time doing the books for the Doctors Mijanovich, she sewed most of her daughters’ clothes, was a “milk and cookies mom” who baked beautiful birthday cakes, and spent summer days filling the freezer with vegetables from the large garden Scotty grew.
Their recreation and social life centered around games. Scotty and Polly played Scrabble most nights of the week, and when they tired of competing they began to play cooperatively in a mutual effort to get 1000 points out of the board. They met three other couples who played canasta: Clarence and Lucille Buesing, who lived next door at their first home on Locust Street; John and Phyllis Daeschner, who had immigrated from Germany and whose daughter Ursula was in Charlotte’s class at school; and Lloyd and Dorothy Walley of Garden Prairie, whom they met through Dorothy’s job in the cafeteria of Kishwaukee Grade School where Scotty taught. They often would get together with one or another of them on Friday night for a game. The girls got in on family games like Yahtzee, Rack-O, cribbage, and dominoes. The love of games never left Polly and her mind was sharp – she was playing and winning (even skunking!) in cribbage up until the last few months of her life. Rack-O filled plenty of evenings during COVID, and she won her last game of Quiddler against her daughters two days before she passed.
After her daughters moved away, she advanced her proficiency in knitting-- a pattern she designed for a shawl was bought by the Red Heart yarn company and featured on their cover, and Polly could be found wearing one nearly every day. She was an avid grower of African violets, and her friends knew they could expect to receive a lovely specimen from her on special occasions. Especially close and long-lasting friends were Edna Ham, whose family stayed in touch even to Christmas of 2023; Ruth Bonsoe, who stayed in touch all of her life; Dorothy Johnson, who visited as often as she was able; and high school classmates Joyce North, who still wrote to her in Christmas of 2023, and Betty Voght, whom she would see whenever she visited Hancock. Polly worked part-time in customer service at Marshall Field’s in CherryVale in Rockford and she retired after working in the offices of Marengo Steel.
In 2010 she moved to Tennessee to be near the Keetons, who lovingly and tirelessly cared for her and kept her active and healthy. She enjoyed jigsaw puzzles and Jeopardy, read nearly every cozy mystery and romance that the library had, and of course played games whenever she could.
Her daughters will remain forever grateful for her unstinting support of their education and lifelong example of generosity, frugality, working hard, and always giving one’s best. A graveside burial of her ashes will be held at the family plot in Marengo in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory to the Goodlettsville Public Library or the charity of your choosing would be appreciated.