In Memory of Polly Medlock

March 9, 1925 – February 27, 2024

Posted: Mar 12, 2024

In Memory of  Charolotte “Polly” Medlock
THS Board Emeritus
Murray Morgan Award
Original THS Member
March 9, 1925 – February 27, 2024 

Polly Medlock passed away on February 27, 2024, at the age of 98, less than two weeks before her next birthday.  Polly was predeceased by her husband of 72 years, Robert Leonard Medlock.  Both Polly and Leonard were members of the 1989 group whose discussions and decisions resulted in the establishment of Tacoma Historical Society in 1990.  According to Deb Freedman, Polly wrote the first check to the THS.  You could say that Polly and Leonard were the first members of our Society. Deb mused that Polly may have kept that check after all these years.   

Polly had a passion for commemorating the sacrifice of military veterans.  "This is part of her DNA" is what current Steilacoom mayor Dick Muri said of Charlotte in 2016.  According to her son, Brian, Leonard Medlock was a "hump pilot" who flew missions over the “rock pile.” Hump pilots were men who flew aircraft of dubious quality over the Himalaya Mountains.  This was part of the China, India, Burma theater of World War II. Brian speculated that Polly’s appreciation for the courage of veterans and their sacrifice was born out of Leonard’s service.  Both of her grandfathers  fought in the Great War, and she is a descendant of a Civil War veteran. 

In 2006, The Tacoma Historical Society and American Legion Post #2 collaborated to create a monument to commemorate the 700 Pierce County residents who gave their lives in World War II.  Leading the efforts were Polly, her husband Captain Robert Leonard Medlock, Dr. Ronald Magden, Colonel Robert B. Campbell, and Colonel A.W. Knight. Their efforts were successful, and the WWII Monument can be seen at War Memorial Park at the Intersection of Jackson Avenue and Highway 16. 

In 1919 at the conclusion of WWI there was a highway boom across the U.S.  The American Forestry Association had petitioned to have trees planted aside the roads to remember those who had fallen during the War.  One section of Highway 99 near Fort Lewis was designated for trees. There were 500 trees planted here to remember the same number of veterans in 1929. 

Let’s fast-forward now to 1989 when a determined Polly enters the story.  Bruce Rushton wrote, “If nothing else, Charlotte Medlock is determined” in Neighbors, on April 12,1989. Polly learned that most of the original trees were cut down in the 1950s and 60s to accommodate the construction of Interstate 5.  The DOT had planned to cut down the 30 remaining trees.  Officials at DOT argued that the trees were a potential danger to drivers who lost control of their cars. The trees were approximately 25’ feet from the roadway.  Polly didn’t accept the rationale.  She argued “it’s like taking a bulldozer and going into a cemetery.” She gathered 2000 signatures, and the 30 trees were saved

Polly monitored the Boulevard of Remembrance.  At the age of 91, Polly was quoted by Brynn Grimley in the TNT, “I kind of keep an eye on those trees.  If I see something happening out there that makes me nervous, I have oftentimes called the Department of Transportation people.” Polly, a THS Board Emeritus, collaborated with members of the Military Order of the World Wars to continue what she had started in 1989. She met with then Representative Dick Muri at a THS Memorial Day event.  She asked Representative Muri to finish what she had started.  Because of Polly’s efforts and the leadership of Muri and Representative Christine Kildorf there is an interpretive sign near Camp Murray.  The sign identifies the Boulevard of Remembrance WWI.  The sign was dedicated on Veterans Day 2016. 

Polly was honored for her work by the THS Murray Morgan Award in 2003. In 2016, her alma mater, Stadium High School, inducted Polly onto its Wall of Recognition. She was recognized for her work on the Boulevard of Remembrance with the new MOWW Outreach Medal in 2016. 

Tacoma has lost a force of nature.  May Polly rest in peace. 

To learn more about Polly’s Tacoma history, please see Tacoma Voices of the Past, by Murray Morgan.

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