NewsPinellas County


WWII veteran and volunteer who dedicated his life to helping others as 'Toymaker' dies at 99

Thad Pollard repaired submarines during WWII
Posted at 10:00 PM, Jul 16, 2019

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Thad Pollard lived a long, happy, and joyous life.

Even weeks before Pollard passed away on July 13, he was donating his time and energy to volunteer at his favorite nonprofit, the ToyMakers of East Lake.

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska first met Thad Pollard for a feature report on the nonprofit back in October 2015.

Pollard's smile and enthusiasm lit up the camera. Pollard, who was 95 at the time of the interview, was in his usual spot in the workshop, cutting out pieces of scrap wood that would magically transform into toys for children in need.

"I do everything," Pollard said. "I really don't have a favorite. I just cut them out."

Pollard often worked side-by-side at ToyMakers of East Lake with his son Gary. They were the team to beat, only stopping when we were there for coffee and snack breaks.

"We have cut as many as 400 toys in four hours," Pollard boasted. "They are all hand made, and it takes me back to when I was a kid and used to make my own toys, cause I go back to the 1920s. Through the depression, my father didn't work for nine months. So, things were pretty tough. The trouble is,no one told us we were poor. We knew we didn't have some things others did and we got along."

During the war, Pollard repaired submarines in the Pacific as a Navy Seabee. Pollard said he one of his duties was refueling and rearming the submarines.

RELATED: ToyMakers of East Lake spread joy all year by making toys for kids in hospitals and abuse shelters

Pollard was proud of his service in the military, but he got a twinkle in his eye when he talked about making toys.

Often times, Pollard would hand deliver the toys to children in the community. We were with him as he made a special delivery at the Tampa General Hospital.

"That is what's important. That is the motto of the place, making kids happy one toy at a time, making kids smile one toy at a time," he said.

ToyMakers of East Lake said, "Thad joined them in 2013 and was an active volunteer until just a few weeks ago. Thad and his son Gary were a power house team in many ways, but most of you will remember seeing the two of them working diligently on the bandsaw cutting out hundreds of toys together on Saturday mornings. Thad honorably served our country in WWII as a US Navy Seabee repairing submarines in the Pacific. Their motto: 'The difficult we do now, the impossible takes a little longer.' Thad also helped design and build the racks we use to paint toys and wheels."

Pollard's wife passed away in June. His family said they know the couple is now together in heaven.

The family released this statement following Pollard's passing:

The family wants every one of you to know how special you were to my parents. Though my mother's medical condition did not allow her to comprehend or participate, my dad still made sure he told her about every event he attended!!

His later years were filled with so much love and friendship from sooooo many people. He was a proud and STUBBORN man who was loved by everyone who knew him. And she was his strongest supporter. Though often in the background, she was a fun, caring lady.

They left a very big legacy of goodness, serving others and loving each other and their family as hard as can be, Becky, Gary, Jenna, and Derek.

A "Celebration of Life" Service for Thad and Lucille will take place at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 12, at East Lake United Methodist Church at 2801 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor. The service will be held in the Sanctuary immediately followed by a reception in the Fellowship Hall.

A Full Military Honors Service for Thad will be held on the same date -- Monday, August 12 -- at 1:30 p.m. at Bay Pines National Cemetery at 10000 Bay Pines Boulevard in Saint Petersburg.

The service will include Honor Guard, a 21 gun salute and taps in recognition of Thad's honorable participation in the Pacific in WWII.

Instead of flowers, Thad's family has requested donations go to any of the following organizations, ToyMakers of East Lake and Honor Flight of West Central Florida.

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