The following is a recirculation of an article originally published on the National Home's blog on February 7th, 2015.
On March 2, 1925, Sgt. Edward Pollett left his home in Halfway, Michigan, to pick up his retirement check at Fort Wayne in Detroit. He never made it back home; he was hit by a streetcar while crossing a road in downtown Detroit and later died of his injuries. His widow soon found out her husband’s retirement pay stopped after his death. Annie Pollett, a World War I widow, and her six children were left destitute.
The Halfway VFW Post 1146 spoke to Dr. Candler about the family’s plight, and arrangements were made for the Polletts to become the first family to live at the newly formed VFW National Home.
Annie Pollett and her six children – Lillian, Howard, Mary, Thomas, Woodrow, and Margaret arrived at the National Home on March 9, 1925.
They soon were settled in a farmhouse on the property, and the children attended school in Eaton Rapids. At the time, the National Home was a working farm with fields of oats, cows, chickens, and more.
“We were surprised to see such a nice farm,” Lillian later wrote in a letter. “The boys, too, were happy when they saw all the stock and dogs.”
Howard’s daughters, Mary Ann Pollett and Susan Pollett-Schummer, along with Howard’s granddaughter, Kathryn Schummer, visited the National Home in August 2014. While visiting, Mary Ann reflected on her father’s life here.
“Dad always said it was fun growing up on a farm,” she said. “He liked the farm animals, and he said the kids all had their chores taking care of them.”
Mary Ann said her father and his siblings made new friends as other families came to the National Home, and some of these friendships lasted a lifetime. The family considered themselves “very fortunate” to live at the National Home.
“It enabled them to grow up in a safe and secure environment with supportive, caring adults,” she said.
The National Home allowed the Pollett children to stay together, growing up in a loving environment that prepared them for life as adults. They were very fortunate, because many children at that time did not have the safety net that the Home provided.
Life after the National Home
Howard Pollett graduated from Eaton Rapids High School in 1932, where he played football
and basketball. He struggled with poor health most of his life, and eventually had to have open-heart surgery at a research hospital in Chicago. Howard met his future wife, Millicent, while in the hospital, and they were married in October 1942.
“He was very kind,” Susan said. “He would do anything for anybody.”
Howard passed away from a heart attack in 1973 at the age of 59.
Lillian graduated from Eaton Rapids High School in 1929. She married a farmer and had a son named Robert. She later divorced and worked as a secretary at the Governor’s Mansion, according to Mary Ann Pollett. After retirement, she moved to Chicago and lived to be 91.
Mary married a man named Harold, and she also moved to Chicago and lived to the age of 91.
Thomas enlisted in the United States Navy and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent 25 years in the Navy, and then worked for the Lockheed Corp. until retirement.
Woodrow also joined the Navy, and met and married a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Helen, and settled in Roy, Utah. He worked at the Hill Air Force Base until retirement.
Margaret, the baby of the family, married and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, raising four children.
Remembering the first family
Mary Ann Pollett had a dream – she wanted her family to be remembered and honored in some way at the National Home.
As she walked about the National Home community during her visit last year, she was drawn to the Tribute Park and its sculpture, “I Love My Country.” Right in front of the sculpture was a flagstone, it's surface smooth and ready to be engraved.
The flagstone now bears the name of Annie Pollett, her husband, Edward, and their six children. It is a remembrance of the first family that came to the National Home. The first family to live here and grow up here. The Polletts are now gone, but they will be forever remembered.