Celebrating 80 years of an impactful life

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, several drive-by birthday celebrations have taken place in the city and throughout the country. There was another one Sunday as a special lady celebrated her 80th.

It wasn’t only to celebrate her long life, but the countless lives she’s touched along the way.

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Pauline Whalen, fondly known as Ms. Polly, spent 47 years as the director of her own daycare that she ran out of her home.

“And I told mama I’ll never marry, but I’ll have all these adoptive children,” says Whalen.

Well, she got it halfway right. She’s been married to her husband, Wayne, for 62 years, and they have 2 children. However, through her daycare, she has cared for more than 500 kids.

“All these kids, they feel like they’re my children,” Whalen says.

They say they have that same love for her. In fact, many of the adults she cared for more than 25 years ago showed up for her 80th birthday surprise. Some of them even have kids of their own.

“She’s an angel on Earth,” Monica Whalen says.  “She was the same Ms. Polly back then as she is today. She’s honest. She’ll tell it like it is, and her number one thing is learn how to treat people.”

Monica Whalen says she teaches that to her 16-year-old daughter, who also attended the daycare as a child. But now it hits a little closer to home because she’s a part of the family after marrying Ms. Polly’s son.

However, the celebration was bitter-sweet because Whalen has terminal cancer, but she says she feels blessed to be surrounded with love after all these years.

“I want them to remember the good things that we did together and the times that we shared together,” Whalen says.  “I pray for that guidance every day – that I’ve touched their lives.”

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Bobbi McSwine joined the ABC 36 News Team in March 2020. She started as a Web Content Producer in November 2019. She was born and raised in Chicago, IL, known to many as the “Windy City.” She studied journalism at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. While in school, she had a number of internships ranging from Free Spirit Media, ABC 7 Chicago and Illinois Public Media. She fell in love with writing in high school and paired that with a newfound passion for storytelling in college. She misses her hometown, but she loves the horses and rich history in Lexington. When she’s not working, she’s probably listening to music or binge-watching Netflix. She’s always looking to get to know more people in Central Kentucky, so feel free to shoot her a message on Facebook @BobbiWTVQ, follow her on Twitter @McSwineB_News, or send her an email at bmcswine@wtvq.com.