WWII veteran, volunteer toymaker passes away

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The building that houses ToyMakers of East Lake will feel different for 73-year-old volunteer Gary Pollard. 

For the past five years, Pollard has spent four hours on most Saturdays helping to create handmade wooden toys for the non-profit organization. For most of those five years, his father Thad Pollard has been by his side. 

"He was here, three weeks ago, until he couldn't muster the strength to come back," Gary Pollard said. 

Thad Pollard passed away Sunday. He was 99 years old. 

"My dad touched hundreds of people’s lives. Each one of them loved him," Pollard continued. 

The Pollards were a staple in the building, known for cutting out hundreds of the wooden bases for the toys on the band saw. 

"We make 20,000 toys annually, and my dad and I would cut out the vast majority of those," Pollard said. 

Those toys go to sick and needy children in stressful situations. Pollard says dropping off the toys to children at hospitals would always bring tears to his father's eyes. 

Thad Pollard started volunteering in 2013, after seeing an ad in a local paper. His son's first thought when his father brought it up: "How can I help?"

Gary Pollard says the pair used the hours together to talk about everything from family, to friends, to military service, and the importance of giving back. 

"We were both getting old, and when you know the time is short, you speak your heart back and forth," Pollard said. 

Thad Pollard served in the U.S. Navy repairing submarines during World War II. He's joined by many other local veterans as a part of ToyMakers, including Gary Pollard, a veteran of the U.S. Army. Thad Pollard also volunteered for the Honor Flight Program. 

"My dad volunteered his entire life," Gary Pollard said. "Not many people get to meet a hero; I got live with one for 73 years."

Like his father, Gary Pollard plans to volunteer with ToyMakers as long as he possibly can. 

"I'll be carrying on for him, and that's important for me," Pollard added.