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Super Seniors: Tony Pomerleau

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In many ways the Follett House is like it's owner -- highly visible in Burlington, a pillar in the community and been around for a long time.   

"Everything is 100 percent the way it was in 1841," said Anthony Pomerleau.

The 94 year-old Pomerleau -- most people call him Tony -- has restored the Pomerleau Agency's headquarters to it's former glory.  "This was no money maker, believe me," he said.

One of the few endeavors that hasn't made him money. The self-made millionaire had a modest beginning. "Somebody said to me, 'were you poor?'  I said, 'No, I didn't have any money.'"

He was born in Quebec but his family moved to Newport when he was an infant. An accident when he was two almost killed him.  Tony fell from upstairs into the basement and was in a body cast for four years. He got healthy and quickly turned into a wheeler and dealer.  Cleaning cars as a kid, to a shoe salesman as a young man.  Always hustling, he went on to start his own food market -- that expanded to four.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How are you feeling?

Tony Pomerleau: I am here every day. I make all kinds of deals every day.

Now he deals in real estate, owning dozens of shopping plazas in Vermont and New York.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What's your greatest accomplishment?  

Tony Pomerleau: My family.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Not the millions of dollars?  

Tony Pomerleau: Nahhh!

He's been married to Rita for 65 years. They raised 10 children. Two have passed away.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Are you an emotional guy?  

Tony Pomerleau: Yup, oh yeah. I cry a lot.

In order to understand Tony better, you need to go for a ride.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You still drive?

Tony Pomerleau: Of course!  I'm your guy.

We go up North Avenue, past the police station -- the building he donated -- to the New North End.

"This is the first shopping center that I developed," he said.

Way back in 1953, Pomerleau says he saw the potential because so many homes were being built in this part of Burlington.  

Reporter Joe Carroll: What's your greatest failure -- business wise?

Tony Pomerleau: I have none.  

Some say he has a healthy ego, Tony thinks otherwise -- just an ambitious man who's done well.  All would agree, he's a very generous man. From an annual Christmas party for area youth, to a sizable donation to Saint Michael's College.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How much money do you figure you've given away through the years?

Tony Pomerleau: Quite a few million.

Last year alone he gave away 2.5 million, and just recently he gave away another million to help Vermont recover from Tropical Storm Irene. There was a ceremony in the Statehouse in his honor.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Your kids must be wondering where the inheritance is going?  
Tony Pomerleau: They got plenty!

Back to the car we go.

Tony Pomerleau: Now did you tell them I'm driving because I don't trust your driving!

The man who has no intention of dying before 100 doesn't hold back.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Can you get over that?  

Tony Pomerleau: Of course! You must think I'm old.

And there was a whiff of controversy in his long life. It was here on the Burlington waterfront. Back in the early 80's, Tony wanted to put up high rises and a hotel.  Mayor Bernie Sanders thought otherwise.

Tony Pomerleau: Some people would argue it's just for the wealthy -- of course not.  

Reporter Joe Carroll: We'll your talking about high end condos.

Tony Pomerleau: Yeah, yeah -- they got to be somewhere.

After much public opposition the project was scrapped.  Tony says he doesn't hold grudges. It's all business. His motto: In order to make money you got to do something the other guy isn't doing. Then move on to another venture. "And you can't stand still. Time goes on," he said.

The man who has the energy of a teenager says he isn't planning on retiring.  It's back to the Follett House for another deal. "There's a time limit for every business, or any person, except me," he said.

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