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Memorials: Honolulu Friends Meeting

Polly Pool

Date of birth

Oct. 1, 1927

Date of death

July 4, 2020


Honolulu Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Born Elaine Marie Geller on October 1, 1927, she departed this life as Polly Pool on July 4, 2020, having transformed her life as well as her name. Polly was born into a multigenerational Norwegian immigrant family in Chicago two years before the Depression started. Her father, Alfred Geller, left them when she was three and was rarely seen thereafter. Her mother, Mildred, supported them by working as a typist, a vocation she would hold her entire life.

Elaine was enrolled in kindergarten at four so her mother could work (they had to lie about her age). When she reached high school, her mother and aunt took her out of public school and enrolled her in Jones Commercial High School to learn secretarial skills so she would be able to earn a living. Her first job was selling perfume at Woolworth’s in downtown Chicago. Somewhere along the line, she changed the spelling of her name to the more glamorous Elayne and picked up the nickname Polly from a group of high school girlfriends.

Not content with her mother’s practical ambitions for her life, Polly worked after high school to save money for college. When she had enough for one semester she enrolled in St. Olaf College in Minnesota, becoming the first Jones Commercial graduate to attend college. After college funds ran out, she applied to be an airline stewardess at Trans World Airways, again lying about her age because she was not yet the required age of 18. She had never been on an airplane. One of her assignments was TWA’s first non-stop cross-country flight with Howard Hughes as co-pilot.

Her job with TWA took her to Los Angeles where she interspersed flying with attendance at Santa Monica City College. It was there she met William Pool, a young Texan recently discharged from the Marines after WWII service in the Pacific. She said he caught her eye because he was the only guy at SMCC who could dance as well as the boys back in Chicago. They were married in July 1947 and their daughter Kathleen was born in 1948. Soon afterward, they followed her husband’s family back to Lubbock, Texas, and the family mattress business. Their son William was born there in 1951. When contracting jobs took her husband on a series of long out-of-state sojourns, she jumped at the chance to leave Lubbock. Packing up two toddlers, she followed him to Maine, South Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, and finally to Florida, where they settled for Kathy’s early school years.

In 1956 the family returned to California, where Polly resumed working as a secretary. She was very good at her work and climbed the organizational ladder with the appreciative executives she supported. In her last California home, Santa Cruz, she worked as a faculty secretary at the University of California.

During her years in California, Polly began to participate in the social justice issues of the day. She joined an interracial reconciliation committee at her church and, when the church members balked at fully embracing the cause, she quit the church and joined the Black congregation at the AME Zion church she had been working with. She volunteered on one of the first suicide prevention hotlines, and gradually became an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War.

In 1975, determined to reinvent her life following the end of her marriage, Polly packed her belongings and moved again--this time to Oahu, Hawaii. She soon found a spiritual home with the Religious Society of Friends, becoming a member of Honolulu Friends Meeting in 1987. Her secretarial skills served the Meeting well, as she was Recording Clerk in the early years of her Meeting life. Polly’s strong social conscience leading was in the area of world affairs, particularly nuclear disarmament. She stayed abreast of these affairs by serving as the Liaison to Pacific Yearly Meeting in the Orient, and as HFM’s Liaison to FCNL, QUNO, and AFSC. In 1990 she was HFM’s Representative to Pacific Yearly Meeting. She served on HFM’s Peace and Social Concerns committee for many years, and was a strong supporter of all the peace actions taken by that committee.

Intermixed with her activities at Friends Meeting, she found time to travel extensively. She circled the world twice as part of the staff of the Semester at Sea program, an adventure that produced lifelong friends.

When she was unable to travel as widely, Polly turned her attention to deepening her spiritual leadings. She served on the Library committee with a special interest in maintaining the Pendle Hill Pamphlet collection. This led to her facilitating a Pendle Hill Pamphlet Study Group in her home for many years. Always eager to read, discuss and learn, this ministry served her and particularly the Windward Worship Group very well. All who knew her were enriched by her friendship and example of the Quaker way of life.

Polly spent almost half of her life in Hawaii, most of it in Kaneohe, where she would look out on the view of Kaneohe Bay every day and count her blessings. She welcomed visits from her son Bill, of Santa Cruz, California, and daughter Kathy, of Portland, Oregon. Kathy’s marriage to Chuck Stuckey produced two adored grandchildren, Sam and Meg Stuckey, daughter-in-law Kelly Stuckey and, at the very end, great-grandson William. Her final months were spent planning a trip to Portland to meet William. But ultimately, no mainland attachment was strong enough to lure her away permanently from her beloved Hawaii and the community she came to love.