by Christine Wolkin
Renee E. Polsky, Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library vice president and member of the board for more than 30 years, passed away at her home in Chestnut Hill on Sept. 2 at the age of 83.
Polsky was born in Philadelphia but called the city’s Garden District her home for more than 50 years. “She absolutely loved all things Chestnut Hill,” said her cousin Harvey Portner, a resident of Skippack.
“She preferred to buy everything locally and knew all of the business owners by first name, and they knew hers.”
Those who knew Polsky were quick to mention her love of literacy for both the English and French languages, the latter of which she taught for more than 30 years at Upper Dublin High School after earning her teaching degree at Penn State University.
“She loved everything French. If you looked up the word ‘Francophile’ in the dictionary, her picture was next to it,” said Portner.
Though Polsky never married and never had children of her own, she kept in touch with many of her students over the years. Portner said that despite being a “stern taskmaster,” Polsky was loved by many of her students.
Polsky had a lifelong partner, the late Millard “Beck” Bekmezian, a fellow teacher she met at Upper Dublin High School, with whom she traveled the world. While Polsky enjoyed many activities throughout her life – attending the theater and opera, playing the piano, sharing jokes, learning and teaching French – one of her most beloved ventures was encouraging literacy by introducing people to works of great literature.
“Most dear to her was the longstanding weekly book sale at the library,” said Marlene Sider, a fellow member of the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library’s Book Sale Committee and a close friend. “She would delight in helping students and seniors find books special to them for minimal expense and maximum joy, raising funds for the library at the same time … I know Renee received awards for her Chestnut Hill service, and she was truly loved. Her favorite food group was chocolate, and she loved McNally’s chocolate cake.”
As a member of the Book Sale Committee, a subset of the Chestnut Hill Library, Polsky helped manage and maintain the library’s book sale events, helping to increase literacy and revenue while also building increased community involvement.
In an article in the Chestnut Hill Local on Oct. 1, 2015, about a library book sale, Polsky wrote, “Would you like to take a trip around the world? Would you like to be a princess? Would you like to live in the future? You can fulfill all of your desires by reading a book.”
Sider said that Polsky will be deeply missed by the many lives she touched in the Chestnut Hill area.
The Book Sale Committee is planning a local community potluck to coincide with its semiannual book sale as part of the Fall for the Arts Festival on Sept. 29. The event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chestnut Hill Library, 8711 Germantown Ave., also will serve as a celebration of Polsky’s life. Participants are asked to bring sweets, foods, and/or beverages along with stories, jokes and remembrances of Polsky. All are welcome.
“If she were alive, Renee would be at that book sale all day, welcoming friends and sharing sweets and stories,” said Sider.
Polksy is the loving niece of Frances Polsky, beloved cousin of Harvey Portner (Mary) and the late Esther Dinerman (Bernard). She is also survived by her second cousins Michael, Doriann (Dan), Jay Dinerman (Linda), Adam Dinerman (Nadine) and Ann Dinerman (Jack).
The family is holding a private memorial celebration on Sept. 29.