Pauline (Polly) Eskenasy McGilvra ’65

Pauline (Polly) Eskenasy McGilvra, 70, died June 21, 2018.

Born in Holyoke, MA, Polly was a proud graduate of the Northampton School for Girls and Harvard University. She earned her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Culture from Harvard and was a dedicated scholar, educator, and life coach. She taught at Blue Ridge Community College in Hendersonville, NC, for many years, and became a pastoral counselor in Hendersonville and in Atlanta.

Polly’s productive life was interrupted by early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. She retained her sweet personality, good humor, and love of family and chocolate throughout her debilitating illness.

She leaves her son Jonathan McGilvra and his wife Heather, granddaughter Alaina of Apex, NC, her mother Edith Eskenasy, sister, Diane, and her husband, Tim Aldrich, all of Hendersonville, NC, and many loving cousins and friends.

She was predeceased by her father Isaac Eskenasy, maternal grandparents, Jacob and Adeline Barowsky, and paternal grandparents Max and Pauline Eskenasy.

A memorial service will be held at Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville, NC at 2 p.m. on October 12, 2018.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104 (, to MANNA FoodBank, 627 Swannanoa River Road, Asheville, NC 28805 ( or to a charity of your choice.

A note from Polly’s sister, Diane Eskenasy Aldrich ’70

Polly loved NSFG and WNS and would have participated in every event and reunion had she been able. She loved her classmates and teachers, and spoke of them often throughout the years (especially Mrs. Cantarella). We cheerily sang the first part of the NSFG alma mater together many, many times as that was so important and deeply ingrained in her memory. Her obituary suggests memorial contributions to other organizations, but the family would,  of course, be thrilled and honored if anyone wished to make a donation to Williston Northampton School in her memory.

6 thoughts on “Pauline (Polly) Eskenasy McGilvra ’65”

  1. N.S.F.G. was a transformative experience for me. I think my father got tired of me
    thanking him for it so many times over the years. My husband knows it had a lot to
    do with the person I became. Polly transformed the class by organizational skills her
    intellect and her unselfishness regarding taking responsibility for helping other
    individuals and groups. Over the years I never been surprised to see her school
    involvement show. That’s who she always was. I would also like to add how very nice
    and kind she was. These are my thoughts as I look at her lovely senior picture.

    1. Thank you much for your kind words! They mean a lot to me and to the family. We know how hard she worked and how very much she really cared. It showed in everything she did.

  2. My love and prayers surround Polly’s family. Alzheimers is a horrid journey for everyone. I am so very sorry. Polly was a classmate of mine at NSFG. She was one of the smarter ones in our class. Really nice fellow classmate.

    1. Thank you so much, we sincerely appreciate your love and prayers. It was a difficult journey for all of us but we were fortunate that she remained her sweet self to the very end. She always had a smile to share.

  3. I saw Polly on and off since graduation and here in California several years ago. I talked to her after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She was consistently cheerful and unaffected. When we were at Hamp she was a star student without a shred of intellectual posturing. We talked about our lives and I was surprised at how she had remained trusting and uncynical, far more than I. She had experiences which would have brought me to my knees.I’m sure that her personality drew good people to her side throughout the recent past.Many times I’ve thought our fellow classmates could bolster each other more. I welcome calls or visits from “Christmas Past” and will diet and clean in anticipation of your arrival.

    Holly Cumberland

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Holly. She and her husband Joe moved back to Hendersonville when our parents moved here. Joe was not well at that time but he had many family members in town, and Polly had many friends and our immediate family. Polly’s diagnosis came just a few months before Joe passed away, so she did not have much time to process it with him. She moved in with our mother (Dad had recently moved to a nursing facility) and she started taking Spanish classes with me. Her lifelong learning and interest in languages continued as long as she could participate, but after a while we had to admit that she needed more care. She was happy to move closer to her son, Jonathan, and her granddaughter Alaina, and we had video calls together every week until the end. She always recognized my voice and gave me a big smile.

      Cherish your memories of family and friends. Visit when you can. You don’t even have to diet and clean to share memories and maintain the important relationships. Stay in touch. I know that Polly appreciated your conversations and support. Thank you for being her friend!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *