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Pauline P. Holbrook, 96, Hornell


Pauline P. Holbrook – 96 – of 7 Adsit Place, Hornell, died peacefully Sunday evening (April 7, 2024) at her home, following a brief illness.

Born in Schenectady, NY, on November 6, 1927, she was the daughter of Irish immigrants John and Mary (Moore) McDonald.

Pauline (known to her friends as ‘Polly’) grew up in Schenectady and was a graduate of Mount Pleasant High School (class of 1944), where she and her sister were featured Irish Dancers on early local television broadcasts promoting US Government War Bonds. She later graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and started her career as a 2nd grade teacher with the Syracuse School System.

While living in Syracuse, she met her future husband, William “Bill” Holbrook, who was attending Syracuse University Law School. They were married on December 16, 1950, and honeymooned in NYC and Bermuda. Bill had enrolled in the US Navy as an Officer Candidate during WWII, stayed on active duty until 1948, was later recalled for active duty during the Korean War, and thereafter continued as a 25-year member of the US Naval Reserves. Consequently, Pauline and Bill resided in various Navy ports of call, such as Charleston, SC, Newport, RI, and Norfolk, VA, during the early years of their marriage. In 1954, they moved to Hornell, where Pauline was an active member of the community for nearly 70 years.

After being blessed with six children, including five within seven years, Pauline resumed her teaching career, initially part-time as a substitute teacher in the Hornell area. As time went on, however, she was called in to substitute so often that it practically became a full-time job. Nearly every morning the phone would ring and the voice at the other end would simply say, “Polly, we need you … Can you come in to sub?” The answer was almost always “yes.”

A longtime stalwart of civic affairs in Hornell and Steuben County, Pauline was a 40-year member of the Board of Directors for the Steuben ARC (n/k/a Allegheny-Steuben ARC), a 65-year member and past president of the American Association of University Women; a member of the Hornell Fortnightly Club; Ladies of Columbus; Catholic Daughters of America; and a longtime active member of the Republican Party, which honored her at the Lincoln Day Dinner several years ago as Steuben County Republican of the Year.

In 2019, Pauline was recognized by the New York State Legislature as a ‘Woman of Distinction’ for her lifetime devotion to her community. At the presentation ceremony in Albany, during which she received a standing ovation from fellow recipients and attendees, Senator O’Mara said, “Pauline Holbrook exemplifies a commitment to family, community, and country that highlights her recognition this year as a ‘Woman of Distinction.’ From childhood, she was instilled with a strong sense of citizenship that she has passed on to her own family and that has guided her, for over six decades, to enjoy a remarkable standing within the Hornell community and across the Canisteo Valley. She has remained devoted to a life’s work of raising her family and serving her community as a teacher, and a tireless and giving friend, neighbor, and volunteer … She is unparalleled in her service and dedication to our community and surrounding areas. Her long record of volunteering is most noteworthy.”

Pauline was a member of Our Lady of the Valley Parish and previously a communicant of the former St. Ignatius Loyola Church and St. Ann’s Church. 

Pauline was preceded in death by her husband, Bill Holbrook, who died February 10, 1989; her beloved son, Michael Holbrook, who died November 5, 2022; two brothers, Gerald McDonald and Eric McDonald; and her sister, Ethel (McDonald) Graves.

Surviving are her daughter, Debby (Alexander Hoke) Holbrook of Juneau, Alaska; four sons, Dennis (Michele) Holbrook of East Aurora, NY, Bill Holbrook of Juneau, Alaska, J.P. Holbrook of Hornell, and Paul (Jill) Holbrook of East Aurora, NY; grandsons, Hayden, Ryan, Patrick, Zander, Billy, and Emilio; granddaughters, Heather, Jessica, Caitlin, Ashley, Hannah, Erin, and Emma; great-granddaughters, Ariana, Emery, Mackenzie, and Charlotte; and great-grandsons, Dylan and Levi.

The family of Pauline P. Holbrook will receive friends on Monday, April 15th, from 5:00 PM  until 7:00 PM at the Dagon Funeral Home, 38 Church St., Hornell, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 16th, at 10:00 AM at St. Ann’s Church with a private burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Pauline’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in her name be made to the Allegany-Steuben ARC, 240 O’Connor St., Wellsville, NY 14895. Memorial forms will be available at the Dagon Funeral Home.

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