The South Florida racing community held a moment of silence Jan. 11 in memory of Mildred “Mickie” Poleo, one of the most loved and colorful members of the Gulfstream Park staff who passed away last week.
Poleo worked the concession stands at Gulfstream since 1963 and also worked concession stands at Monmouth Park, Atlantic City, and Gulfstream Park West (formerly Calder Race Course).
“Everyone looked forward to visiting and talking to Mickie every day at Gulfstream,” said Gulfstream general manager Bill Badgett. “She loved her customers, her co-workers, her job, and loved racing. She was an incredible person. I’ve never met anyone like her. She will be greatly missed.”
A native of New London, Conn., she moved to Hialeah, Fla., with her family at the age of 11, when her father opened the business Florida Grinding Company. Married at 17, her first husband died just 17 months after the wedding when flying maneuvers in Alaska as part of the Air Force. She was later married to jockey Sal Poleo for 37 years.
In an interview a few years ago with “Gulfstream Today,” Mickie said she loved her job.
“I remember serving Joe Louis,” she said. “When he shook my hand, I couldn’t find my hand. His hand was three times my size. And a lot of movie stars I waited on. I met Frank Sinatra when he was here filming a movie. And the guy with the beautiful blue eyes (Paul Newman).”
And, yes, Mickie liked to play the races.
“I bet them, yeah,” she said. “Oh, man, a jockey gave me a horse three years ago. I made a lot of money. I took care of him. He still comes around, but the (expletive) hasn’t given me a winner in two years.”