She survived a battle with lung cancer.
She made it all the way to the Top of the World.
She even went all the way down to the Bottom of the World.
Her name is Barbara Hillary.
At the age of 75, Ms. Hillary (b. 1931 – 2019) became the oldest and first Black American woman to reach the Polar Arctic North (North Pole). She is in the famous company of other adventurers who have set foot into the land of ice: Henson and Peary.
Add to this magnificent feat, Ms. Hillary has also made it to Antarctica (Geographic South Pole). She made this milestone at the age of 79. She joins other explorer adventures who set out to reach the South Pole: those who made it – Amundsen and Byrd; and those who did not -Shackleton and Scott.
“A 79-year-old from New York has become the first African American woman on record to reach both the North Pole and the South Pole.
Retired nurse Barbara Hillary took up skiing in her 70s made it to the North Pole aged 75 and has just returned from a trip to the South Pole.
She said: “I am a lung and breast cancer survivor and when I decided to go to the North Pole I met a tremendous amount of negativity but there was a segment of people who did encourage me.”
Her awards and honors are impressive:
- Special Citation from the United States House of Representatives
- Special Resolution 466 honoring and recognizing her achievements introduced by Representative Gregory Meeks
- “Individual of Inspiration and Dedication” award from the Office of the Borough President, the Honorable Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn, New York
- Special Proclamation from Southhampton Township
- Special Acknowledgment from the Explorers Club, Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner
- Life Membership, Frederick A. Cook Society
- Life Membership, National Rifle Association
- Wildlife Alliance Membership
- Honorary Member of OWL, the National Older Women’s League
- “Woman of Courage Award” from the National Organization of Women
- “Spirit of America Award” from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
- Rotary Club Award from the Rotary Club of Southhampton, Long Island
- Rotary Club Award from the Rotary Club of Great Neck, Long Island
- “Twisted Spike Award” for the athletic achievement of skiing to the North Pole.
- Presentation Knife Award from Buck Knives
- She has also been honored by Sri Chinmoy, a noted visionary and spiritual leader, as an “Individual of Inspiration and Dedication”
- Sri Chinmoy Champion Athlete Award
- Buick Club Membership
Ms. Hillary also has a website that chronicles her achievements.
I first posted on Ms. Hillary in 2007. It was an honor to learn of her noble and spectacular accomplishments.
She never let anything stand in her way: age, health, doubters, and negative naysayers.
She is an emblem of all that which is strong, resilient, and valiant. Would that more of us would take on life the way this great and formidable lady has done.
Barbara Hillary giving a speech. Photo courtesy of Barbara Hillary.