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FMI Mourns Passing Of Cathy Polley, Services Set For Monday

Mrs. Cathy Polley
Mrs. Cathy Polley

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 09:48 am

The Food Marking Institute (FMI) is mourning the death of one of its beloved leaders.

Mrs. Catherine Mary Jelinski “Cathy” Polley, 56, died Nov. 2. She was nationally known as a passionate leader in improving the health and wellness of everyday Americans. Importantly, she was a courageous and loving wife, mother, sister and friend to those whose lives she touched on a daily basis. At the time of her death, Mrs. Polley served as FMI’s VP of health and wellness and as the executive director of the FMI Foundation.

Mrs. Polley was born Aug. 22, 1959, in Wyandotte, Michigan, to Casimir and Mary Jelinski. Her classmates at Gabriel Richard High School remember her as having a rare combination of being intensely focused on studies, while also reaching out to help and make friends with everyone. Father James (Jim) Arsenault recounts how “she would enter a room with her big smile and eyes lit up,” and how “she showed great respect to everyone, especially her classmates.” From an early age, she also had ambitious dreams and, throughout her life, walked briskly to make a difference.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, she married the one true love of her life, William (Bill) Polley, on Sept. 4, 1982. Their greatest joy has been raising two wonderful children, Kara and Owen. Mrs. Polley greatly appreciated family traditions and worked hard to make holidays, birthdays, vacations and family events special. She especially enjoyed cooking and brought a touch of elegance and creativity to family gatherings. Mrs. Polley, Bill and their children also are huge Michigan sports fans and often drove long distances to the games.

Professionally, Mrs. Polley is known for her many initiatives on improving health and wellness. She was appointed by former Michigan Gov. John Engler to serve on the Michigan Board of Pharmacy and, in addition to her role with FMI, held many key positions in the field of health and wellness, including director of pharmacy for K‐Mart Corp., VP of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and chief policy officer and SVP for the American Pharmacists Association. Mrs. Polley also served on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.

Throughout her career, she was a strong advocate for improving the quality of food in supermarkets and schools and the availability of healthcare in America. She received many awards, including being recognized as a Woman of Influence in the Food Industry 2013, and one of America’s Disruptive Women to Watch in 2014. These awards honor leaders who make a substantial impact on the healthcare industry through innovation, policy and leadership.

Mrs. Polley found a way of turning challenges into opportunities. After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, she focused her attention on helping others with the same disease. She served on the board of directors for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and has been heavily involved in spreading awareness and accelerating fundraising to improve research and treatment for ovarian cancer patients.

She will be remembered always for her passion for life, desire to serve, optimistic and courageous spirit and endless love, especially for family. She was a woman of faith and was an active member of St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Mrs. Polley is survived by her husband, William; children, Kara and Owen; and sister, Janet (Lloyd) Hansen. She was preceded in her death by her parents, Casimir and Mary Jelinski.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax. There will be a visitation with the family from 9:30‐10:45 a.m. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made at ovariancancer.org. Sympathy cards and notes of condolence may be sent to: Bill Polley and Family; Food Marketing Institute; 2345 Crystal Drive, Suite 800; Arlington, VA 22202.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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  • Cathy was an amazing woman as well as incredible friend and colleague. Those of us who were fortunate to have been touched by her warmth, strength, courage and caring were truly blessed!

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