Cover photo for Pauline Eisenstadt's Obituary
Pauline Eisenstadt Profile Photo
1938 Pauline 2024

Pauline Eisenstadt

December 30, 1938 — March 1, 2024

When he was in middle school, Todd Eisenstadt's mother, Pauline, allowed him to stay up some evenings to watch

"Nightline," ABC's late-night news program featuring anchor Ted Koppel.

"She would do that when there was a topic on the show she wanted to discuss with me at breakfast," said Todd, now 58

and a professor of political science at American University in Washington, D.C.

Todd was born in Santa Barbara, California, when his father, Mel, was a professor of mechanical engineering at the

University of California, Santa Barbara. He said his mother used to take part in Santa Barbara Vietnam War protests with

him strapped to her back.

"I don't remember that, but sometimes there was tear gas, so after a discussion with my dad it was decided I could not be

part of that," Todd said.

Undated photo of Mel and Pauline Eisenstadt. Pauline, who served in both the New Mexico House and Senate, died on March 1.

COURTESY KEITH EISENSTADT

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"My mother was just a very public-spirited person, a very empathetic person. The meaning of her life was trying to solve

problems in the community and advocating for others who could not help themselves."

Pauline Eisenstadt, the first woman to serve in both the New Mexico House and the New Mexico Senate, died on Friday at

The Neighborhood, a retirement community in Rio Rancho.

Conflicting dates on documents make the year of her birth uncertain, but she was believed to be 85.

Survivors include son, Todd Eisenstadt and wife, Rosa Amelia Suniaga Narvaez, of Garrett Park, Maryland; son Keith

"Keegan" Eisenstadt and wife, Kristy Pilgrim, of Missoula, Montana; and grandchildren Natalia, Paola, Spencer and Holly

Eisenstadt.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Mel, an engineer, attorney and municipal judge for the Village of Corrales in

the 1980s and '90s.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. April 27 at The Neighborhood, 900 Loma Colorado Blvd. NE, in Rio Rancho.

"She was a Democrat with a capital 'D'," said Albuquerque's Dede Feldman, who served with Eisenstadt in the New Mexico

Senate. "She was steadfast in her values - freedom, tolerance, women's rights, freedom of choice. She was a protector of

democracy."

Beach tomboyPauline Eisenstadt grew up in Miami Beach, Florida.

"Stories I heard from her mother and her sister is that she was a tomboy who played with everybody on the beach in

Florida," son Keith said. "She and her friends would sneak into beach hotels and play in the hotel pools until someone

kicked them out. Then they would go out on the beach and ride bikes."

According to her 2012 book, "A Woman in Both Houses" (University of New Mexico Press), Eisenstadt earned a bachelor

of education in social sciences from the University of Florida in 1960 and married Mel in a ceremony at the Eden Roc

Hotel in Miami Beach that same year.

Then both she and Mel went to graduate school at the University of Arizona, where Pauline got a master's degree in social

sciences.

After a few years in Santa Barbara and three in Puerto Rico, where Mel was a professor of engineering, the family moved

to New Mexico in 1973 so Mel could attend law school at the University of New Mexico. By the mid '70s, the family was

living in Corrales.

Eisenstadt got involved in politics before winning elected office. In 1977, she helped start a consumer group called Energy

Consumers of New Mexico to combat the rising cost of heating oil for low-income people, senior citizens and farmers and

businesses who depended on natural gas for their livelihoods.

The organization lobbied the legislature to put a cap on natural gas prices.

Keith Eisenstadt, 54, said his mother's work in energy and her concern about pollution and climate change influenced his

career path. He did graduate work in forestry and works for South Pole, a Zurich-based company that develops and

implements comprehensive emission-reduction projects.

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Eisenstadt went to China to promote New Mexico businesses when Keith was 15.

"She came back and spoke of all the pollution there at that time and riled me up to try to do something about it," he said.

TrailblazerJolene Maes and her husband, Wayne, met Pauline and Mel at a Corrales rally protesting a major shopping

center development south of Corrales.

Jolene does not recall the year, but it was before Eisenstadt's first try for elective office, a 1983 primary run for a New

Mexico house seat.

Pauline Eisenstadt asked Jolene and Wayne to coordinate her campaign, something they eventually would do every time

she ran for office.

"We were making calls on landlines, making fliers," Jolene said. "(Pauline) was pretty demanding. 'What did you do

today?' 'How many calls did you make?' 'We need to do some walking.' She knew what she wanted."

Einsenstadt enlisted her sons in that campaign.

"I believe it was the summer after my junior year in high school," Todd said. "We went to Rio Rancho, where the new

housing was growing up. No one knew her there. She had me start the process. I would ring the doorbell and start talking."

She lost that run in the Democratic primary. But redistricting to reflect the growing population of Rio Rancho resulted in a

special election in 1984. Eisenstadt ran for and won the seat in House District 44.

She was a member of the New Mexico House from 1985-92. She served in the New Mexico Senate from 1997-2000.

Eisenstadt was co-sponsor of legislation that created the Paseo del Norte bridge and worked to create the Petroglyph

National Monument.

She also championed prenatal care, especially for American Indian communities.

Jolene Maes said Eisenstadt helped push through legislation that laid the foundation for New Mexico's Children, Youth

and Families Department and focused on Corrales needs such as a senior center and a fire station.

"She was very supportive of issues we were having in Corrales in those days," Maes said. "And she was so generous.

Whatever information she had, she would share. She was a friend, always there."

Maes said Eisenstadt held her own in the male-dominated House and Senate.

"She fought those boys in the Legislature," she said. "She was not afraid. She was dedicated to her principles."

Marg Elliston of Corrales, who served five terms as chair of the Sandoval County Democratic Party, met Pauline on a

tennis court in the village.

"She was assertively moving ahead, and I was working hard to get more women in the Legislature," Elliston said. "She was

a trailblazer in both houses during a time when it was real hard to be a trailblazing woman.

"She was a model for how to be a woman legislator."

Ollie Reed

Working rooms Feldman and Pauline were both rookies in the New Mexico Senate in 1997. They were in a first-floor

suite in the Roundhouse with several other new senators.

"(Pauline) was very much the mother figure in guiding me in this new adventure I was on and that she had more

experience in," Feldman said. "She was protective and gave me a lot of advice.

"She was careful, but she was also courageous. She sponsored a lot of good government reform, which I took up, issues we

considered mainstream. So, we were allies.

"She had a great sense of humor and of perseverance."

After leaving public life, Eisenstadt found solace in painting in watercolor and oils.

"They were almost all landscapes and wildlife," Keith said. "I don't actually remember her painting anything that was not

nature."

In 2016, Pauline and Mel moved to The Neighborhood. Mel died in 2019.

Up until COVID intruded, Todd said his mother continued to work rooms at The Neighborhood, meeting people, talking to

them, listening to them. She never really stopped being the concerned public servant, he said.

"She was a local politician that tried to solve problems across the aisle without the polarization that exists in our political

system today," Todd said. "She put a lot of energy out there."

To send flowers to the family in memory of Pauline Eisenstadt, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Mountain time)

Neighborhood in Rio Rancho Life Plan Community

900 Loma Colorado Blvd NE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124

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