Kay Pollard served her community in many capacities, but it was her legal fight to be recognized as the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 13 in Milford that made national news and ultimately paved the way for female Scoutmasters.
When no male leader was available to head up Troop 13, Pollard stepped in. She led the troop from 1973 until 1976, and when the national Boy Scouts of America refused to recognize her as a Scoutmaster, she filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Pollard won a favorable ruling from the state commission but it sparked a lengthy legal battle. The BSA’s policy of male-only Scoutmasters was upheld by a state Superior Court judge in May 1986, who ruled that BSA had the right to make its own rules since it was a private organization.
The State Supreme Court later reaffirmed that ruling.
Pollard had had a long history of active involvement in Scouting, as a merit badge counselor, a Cub Scout den mother, and as a Troop 13 committee member, according to her lawsuit.
She had acted as de facto Scoutmaster for Troop 13 when it lacked an official leader and she also served as an assistant Scoutmaster. Pollard had applied twice to be named the official troop leader but had been rejected both times by the BSA.
Under her direction, the members of Troop 13 had made satisfactory progress through the established Boy Scout ranks, the lawsuit stated.
Troop 13 was later disbanded when no male leader could be found, but the BSA officially recognized Pollard as its first female Scoutmaster when the policy was changed in 1988.
“I do think that this is marvelous,” she told the New Haven Register at the time, “because there have been women all over the United States, in fact all over the world who have been doing these things for the Boy Scouts because they could not get a male leader, but we could not get recognition.”
Troop #13 was reactivated after the BSA dropped its gender restrictions, with Pollard as its official Scoutmaster.
Pollard also had served the Milford Fire Department as a volunteer for many years, and as the department’s official bugler. She played “Taps’’ at many firefighters’ funerals.
She was born in Hartford on June 25, 1918, and taught music for 25 years in the Orange public schools, as well as giving private lessons.
Pollard also enjoyed motorcycling, supporting veterans’ issues and raising chickens, according to her obituary. She was a member of the V.F.W. Ladies Auxiliary.
She died on December 11, 2006, in Largo, FL, and at her funeral a week later in Milford, Pollard’s casket was carried on a city fire truck. She is buried in Kings Highway Cemetery.