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Mrs. Poling is a wonderful person

By Debbie Leffler • Aug 6, 2017 at 4:00 PM

I had a different column in mind for today, but then I picked up Tuesday’s Norwalk Reflector and saw the headline on the front page: “Poling honored for years of service.”

There was a picture of Mrs. Poling, also on the front page.

I can’t think of anyone more deserving of being honored.

In the 1980s, I covered the Norwalk schools for the Reflector, and I often had to question Mrs. Poling in her role as administrator. She never acted like she didn’t have time for me. She always answered my questions, even though a reporter who is doing her job can be annoying. She was kindly, but underneath that kindness was a steeliness — she was straightforward with the truth, and unbending when she needed to be.

When she was named superintendent, I was pleased for many reasons, among them because she is a woman who was chosen to run the school district. In my day, women were often relegated to auxiliary positions. But to have a woman — a very qualified woman — chosen to head the school district, made me proud.

In the days when the “new” high school was just a dream, Mrs. Poling was the calm, reasonable voice who spoke for the school district to people who questioned the need for, and cost of, a new high school. She was my source when writing about the bond issue to build the new school. The bond issue passed.

I have seen her name, since her retirement, associated with many good causes to help children — among them Stuff the Bus, which helps children from poor families start the school year with school supplies; and the Weekends Without Hunger program to make sure children who receive breakfast and lunch at school on school days also get food on Saturdays and Sundays. She served on other community boards as well  — this I learned from the recent Reflector article. It did not surprise me that she went on to help children, keeping their needs close to her heart. After all, she started her career as a second- and then third-grade teacher.

There is one more thing about Mrs. Poling. When I was a reporter and she was my source — this is 30 years ago, when she was assistant superintendent — the most horrific event happened to my family. Our 7-year-old daughter died. We are approaching three decades since that happened, but I have never been the same, although life did get easier.

In the days immediately following her death, we received many letters, visits and offers of sympathy and condolence from the community. I continued to go on as best I could, with three small children at home. I have forgotten many of those cards and letters, although I’m sure I still have them stashed away somewhere in the house. But I do remember a poem tucked inside a card Mrs. Poling sent me. It is still taped to my kitchen wall. It was one of the few things that brought me comfort back then. It acknowledged and addressed the pain and the question that haunted me — “Why?” Even reading that poem now, it still holds meaning and sends emotional shivers. I will end the column with that poem, entitled “The Weaver” and attributed to Grant Colfax Tullar.

And thank you, Virginia Poling.

My life is but a weaving

Between my Lord and me,

I cannot choose the colors

He worketh steadily.

Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow,

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I, the underside.

Not till the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Shall God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the Weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance wrier who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at rleffler@neo.rr.com.

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