“When Polly Sloan (1925-2022) died in her Monarch Beach home on May 31 at age 97, it wasn’t only the end of an era; her passing evoked the closing curtain of a riveting, long-running play. Small in stature, she often seemed nevertheless larger than life, a fire, a force of nature, whose journey took plot twists over the decades that at times assumed almost theatrical proportions,” said her son, David Sloan.
According to Polly’s son, Steve, “I do not believe it is possible to honor Polly Sloan more than she honored herself and all of us by the way in which she lived. Polly loved people, and she loved life. She influenced, impacted and left a mark everywhere she went. She put her own inborn charm and persuasiveness to good use, ever inspiring and mobilizing others in the direction of her current mission, she had quite a reputation for being successful at organizing and enlisting.”
Born Pauline Rose Galatz in Los Angeles on January 13, 1925, she moved with her family to Memphis, where she discovered the depth of her Jewish roots. Her grandfather was one of the foremost Reform rabbis in the Midwest. At age 12, she won a statewide writing contest about being Jewish and maintaining Jewish identity. Polly was a strong student, especially drawn to journalism. Her love of writing would take various forms over the years, first as a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News, later as a freelance writer whose work appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Herald Examiner, and as a published poet.
She met a multitalented medical student and musician, Sol Sloan, at a Hillel event at UCLA. They were married for 54 years, until Sol’s death in 2000, and had four sons, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
After their first child arrived, and Sol completed his stint as an air force doctor at Norton Air Force Base, the couple moved to San Bernardino. There Polly was involved with Temple Emanu El and Hadassah. She successfully lobbied the Soviet Union to allow the emigration of several Jewish relatives to America.
Polly and Sol moved to Laguna Beach where Polly’s community activism reached new levels. She and Sol helped to found a Jewish Community Center, and Polly served as its first president. She was also a founding member of Temple Beth El, Morasha Day School, Heritage Pointe and the Orange County Jewish Historical Society. She also served as president of the Women’s Division (now Women’s Philanthropy) of the Jewish Federation and supported the Community Scholar Program and the JCC Symphony Orchestra.
In the secular arena, Polly helped to found the Orange County Mental Health Association and was involved with the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters, as well as several political campaigns. She was also a tap dancer well into her 90s as a featured performer for a jazz band whose members were all over 80.
“Her impact will continue to reverberate in the number of people whose own lives were enlarged by knowing her, including the legion of Jewish community members who benefited from her unflagging philanthropy,” David summarized.
“Losing my mother at once…leaves a hole in our hearts, but a light in our souls.”
Rest in peace, Polly. You were a uniquely wonderful “engine that could.”
Ilene Schneider is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.