Abe Pollin, local sports team owner and philanthropist credited with helping revive the District, was buried Friday after a moving funeral service filled with tributes.
The 85-year-old died Tuesday from a rare brain disorder that had slowly robbed him of his ability to write, walk and see. He was remembered for his commitment to family, sports, and the residents of the city.
“Abe is a man of the people,” said Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis after the funeral. “He walked very comfortably with presidents and prime ministers and with people that were homeless, and that is what everyone admired about him so much. He really was a connector of all parts of society; that is why everyone will miss him, because he was a genuine, authentic person.”
The service was held at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Northwest Washington, followed by a private burial in Virginia. A public memorial will be held Dec. 8 at Verizon Center.
Mr. Leonsis, along with fellow sports-team owners and well-known Washingtonians, joined people who had been touched by Mr. Pollin’s generosity. Mr. Pollin’s simple brown casket was surrounded by two large bouquets of flowers - yellow roses, which were the last symbol of love Mr. Pollin gave his wife. On the day he died, he’d sent Irene Pollin a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses accompanied by a brief note expressing his love.
Those who spoke at the service, including his two sons and granddaughter, recounted Mr. Pollin’s enduring commitment to family, including those related to him and those who joined his extended family.
And beyond Mr. Pollin’s enduring love of sports, they all spoke about his desire to help the world around him.
After the service, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said, “Abe Pollin was a good and decent man who made his community and his world a better place.”
Son Robert Pollin of Amherst said the family would continue to build on Mr. Pollin’s legacy. The family is set to break ground next week on a housing project that Mr. Pollin wanted built in the city. Although Mr. Pollin’s heralded Verizon Center helped the city get back on its feet, Robert Pollin said his father was aware that many people lost affordable-housing options as property values exploded.
Mr. Pollin moved to the District when he was 8 and attended city schools. He worked in his father’s plumbing business and helped transform that company into one of the citys largest construction firms before turning his attention to sports.
Calling Mr. Pollin’s decision to fund the construction of Verizon Center in a then-blighted neighborhood “courageous,” Mr. Leonsis said people haven’t quite realized the dramatic contribution Mr. Pollin made to the vibrancy and health of downtown Washington.
“Without Abe, none of that happens,” Mr. Leonsis said. “I admire his courage, his bravery, and that he had such conviction to try and give back.”