Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 6, 2013

Bernard Podolsky


MT. VERNON — — Bernard Podolsky, age 97, a long-time petroleum engineer and geologist in Fairfield, died peacefully on March 4, in the Fairfield Hospital Skilled Nursing unit. His children, Mike Podolsky of Fairfield, Suzanne Schoomer of St. Louis and Dr. William Podolsky of Fresno, Calif., were visiting when he had a stroke on Feb. 15.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Johnson and Vaughn Funeral Home, with the funeral there at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Interment will follow at Haven Hill Cemetery in Olney.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to local charities such as the Fairfield Memorial Hospital, the Fairfield High School Foundation, Frontier College or the Fairfield Park Department.

Bernie grew up in Pittsburgh, the youngest son of Israel and Rae Podolsky, immigrants from Russia and Romania. During the Depression, he worked his way through college before coming west to work in the developing oil fields of Illinois. He met his future wife Naomi Zimmerly of Olney while working in Effingham.

ROTC training in college meant that Bernie was called into active military duty early in 1941. He and Naomi married on Jan. 13, 1943. Naomi was able to follow him through his World War II postings, including Cape Cod, Mass. where their son Bill was born and the Panama Canal Zone where he commanded air defense and where Suzanne was born.

Bernie left the army as a major then returned to Olney to work for Robinson-Puckett Oil Company and later for himself. The family moved to Fairfield in 1950, where Michael was born. Podolsky Oil Company expanded out from Wayne County but has remained centered in Fairfield for 63 years.

As a leader in conservation, Bernie took pride in reducing the impact of oil production on the farmland of Southern Illinois. He developed a salt water damaged soil clean-up process that has been widely used in the industry. He was passionate about trees, both for conservation of land and for recreation and education and he often planted hundreds of trees at a time. In 1991, Governor Edgar named Bernard as the Illinois Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year along with his son.

Bernie’s public service included chairing the Fairfield Park Commission; work on numerous state and national professional societies, presidency of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, the Society of Petroleum Engineers and an author of works on Illinois petroleum geology and secondary recovery. In the late 1960’s he was Eastern Section Director of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and served on the SPE National Board of Directors. He left a charitable foundation which has supported high school trips to Washington and other local educational and social groups. The Podolsky Charitable Foundation also expects to support a project which he has championed, to develop a tract of woodland just north of Fairfield for recreation and education.

Bernie was preceded in death by his wife Naomi; his parents; and his brothers.

He is survived by his children, Bill (Karen) Podolsky, Suzanne (Paul) Schoomer and Mike (Rita) Podolsky; seven grandchildren, Joan Sinclair, Andrew Podolsky, Sarah Schoomer, Ivan Schoomer, Elanor Schoomer, Emma Strain and Nadia Podolsky; and two great-grandchildren. His family especially thanks his personal caregivers Henrietta Eckleberry, Bea Pierce, Phyllis Merritt and Claudia Berg; Doctors Kakac, Ballard and Carter; the excellent staff at Fairfield Memorial Hospital; his employees at Podolsky Oil Company and his many friends for their support.