Arthur Leon Polhill, born 8/29/42 at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida, lost his battle with cancer surrounded by his family on 7/24/22. He is preceded in death by Leonard Leon Polhill (father), Lillian Irene Whitlow (mother), and his sister, Polly Bodden (Elsie Irene Polhill). He is survived by his wife, Paula Vogel Polhill, his son Hal (Stacy) Polhill, his daughter, Diane (Gary) Leinenbach, and 3 grandsons, Kyle Polhill, Drew Leinenbach, and Gavyn Leinenbach.
Leon attended Jacksonville University then transferred and graduated from the University of Florida, Class of 1966. He attended law school, then transitioned after the 2nd year to earn a Master’s degree. Raised by his grandparents, Leon treasured family as evidenced by his career service, commitment and dedication to serving the children and families of the State of Florida.
Leon taught high school social studies, Problems of American Democracy, at Ocala High School for two years during the integration of public schools. Leon transitioned to Youth Services (Delinquency) in the State of Florida, traveling throughout the state ensuring the integrity of the educational services provided to children in custody. During his career, he was one of the pioneers in youth prevention services, creating and providing the first runaway shelter and services in the state of Florida, which was modeled throughout Florida and the southeastern United States. As Director of Children Services in Hillsborough County, he was instrumental in providing both residential and non-residential services to all children, youth and their families. He continued work with the State of Florida as a Program Administrator for Abuse and Neglect Prevention statewide. In 1999, Leon retired to Gainesville, FL, where he could spend his retirement cheering on his beloved Gators. Leon was a Gator Booster and season ticket holder for both baseball and football, attending home and many away games over the years.
In retirement, Leon continued to support children and families in Alachua County volunteering with the Corner Drug Store, among other things. Leon was also a Master Gardener who loved sharing his love and expertise of gardening with others. He also spent much of his time supporting his grandsons, attending their many school and sporting events as one of their biggest fans.
Leon loved the Great Smoky Mountains, and after years of camping, he bought a second home in Maggie Valley, NC, to ride over Soco Gap to access some of his favorite hiking trails. He believed that each time you took a trail it gave you new insight. He shared that philosophy with everyone and was thankful for the Cherokee family who showed him the mountains over the years.
Leon definitely understood the importance of family, friends and humanity. He loved deeply, cared unceasingly, and always was available to help others.
“Do not go softly into that good night” from Dylan Thomas’s poem was the epitome of his fight against cancer. He fought gallantly. He said that every chemo required learning to ride the new wild horse (chemo). In the end, the song “It is well with My Soul” let him pass in peace.
Leon will be greatly missed by those who loved him.
A celebration of life will be held at Kanapaha Gardens, 4700 SW 58th Ave, Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, August 13 from 1 to 3 pm.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the University of Florida, College of Education may be made out to the A. Leon and Paula F. Polhill Family Endowment Scholarship Fund # F022151 and mailed to P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604-2425, Attn: Gift Processing. Please note A. Leon Polhill or UF Foundation F022151 in the memo area.
You may choose to donate online, using the following link: https://www.uff.ufl.edu/
This scholarship fund is designated for 1st generation students with special consideration given to youth in Take Stock in Children. Leon strongly believed that education was the springboard to success and the great equalizer. Leon was extremely proud that both his children chose careers in education.