Remembering Barbara Hillary


Barbara Hillary, the Arverne adventurer, best known for being the first black woman to travel to both the North and South Poles, has died. She was 88.

In her 88 years, Hillary enjoyed a life well-lived, and nothing could stop that. At age 75, she decided to make a trip to the North Pole. While that was a feat in itself, it wasn’t enough. In 2011, at age 79, she stood atop the South Pole. She was the first black woman on record to visit both. And in February/March of this year, she went on an epic expedition to Mongolia.

As if her age during these feats wasn’t impressive enough, she did them all as a cancer survivor. In her 20s, she survived breast cancer, and at age 67, she survived lung cancer, after having a surgery that caused her to lose 25% of her breathing capacity.

In addition to being a late-life adventurer and cancer survivor, Hillary was a nurse and had gigs as a taxi driver. She also became active in the community by starting the Arverne Action Association, and The Peninsula Magazine, a nonprofit, multi-racial magazine, the first of its kind in Queens.

On Saturday, November 23, just after midnight, during the season of 24-hour sunlight at the South Pole, Hillary’s light went out. After falling ill over the summer, Hillary died at St. John’s Hospital, in the company of her best friend, Elena Pulmones.

Rest in Peace, Barbara Hillary.