KNOTT: Pollin honored as a D.C. treasure

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They descended upon the Washington Hebrew Congregation to pay tribute to a city treasure on Friday.

They talked of the devoted family man as they only knew. They talked of his generosity and passion and the principles that guided him both as the patriarch of the family and in business.

His was a remarkable 85 years, they said. He was so full of life, even in his waning years as a rare brain disorder robbed him of his ability to walk, read and write and much of his vision.

“Abe Pollin, first of all, was an extraordinary human being,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “He was a good and decent man who made his community a better place.”

It was that commitment to the community that led to a promise from one of his two sons, Robert: to see to completion Pollin’s vision of an affordable housing project that would aid schoolteachers, police officers and so many others who have been priced out of the neighborhoods in which they work.

Robert said his father recognized that the revitalization his arena spurred in Chinatown came with the downside of escalating home prices and rents.

That was the person they knew and loved, not the owner who sometimes was criticized because of his oft-losing sports teams, the Wizards and the Capitals - before the hockey team was sold to Ted Leonsis.

Wes Unseld, once the face of the franchise and a favorite of Pollin’s, sometimes would dread those telephone calls from the owner.

“Wes, what’s wrong with my team?” Pollin would ask.

Unseld fielded those calls as a player, coach and president of basketball operations.

As a coach, Unseld presided over several teams that competed with conviction but lacked talent.

The calls still came, the question always the same.

“I guess it’s my coaching,” Unseld said.

They knew him as the philanthropist who took up so many worthy causes, sometimes unbeknown to everyone but his family.

When progress started to lag on a school that Unseld’s wife was starting in Baltimore, Pollin dispatched his construction crew to finish it.

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