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Leo Polk; Donor of 320 Pints of Blood Since '28

September 28, 1987|From Times Wire Services

DANIA, Fla. — Leo Polk died of cancer last week but not before he had donated 320 pints of blood over nearly 60 years, enough to provide complete transfusions to 32 adults.

The most prolific blood donor on record in the United States was 79.

Polk, who proudly kept detailed records of his many trips to blood banks, first gave blood in 1928 and last donated a pint at the dedication of Broward Community Blood Center in 1983.

The American Assn. of Blood Donors could find no person who had donated more blood than Polk, said Rita Cohl of the Broward blood center.

Polk liked to boast that he had "never been sick a day in my life." His bloodletting began when he was 19 and a construction worker dropped a brick six stories onto his head. The doctor who treated him was amazed to find that, despite hours of bleeding, Polk did not require a transfusion.

"He said I'd make a wonderful blood donor," Polk recalled years later. And he did.

Polk, a former AFL-CIO executive from Detroit, retired to south Florida in 1974. Earlier he helped organize a number of blood drives, including one at Jackson State Prison in Michigan. For his work, he was named Michigan Man of the Year in 1951.

Blood donors now are required to wait eight weeks between donations, but more lenient rules years ago allowed Polk to give much more frequently, Cohl said.

Polk, who died Sept. 22, had stopped donating at the age of 65 after 318 pints when the local blood bank set an upper age limit for donors. But the policy was changed in 1982 and Polk donated twice more.

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