Riverdale Country School teacher Matilda McEwen Mendez dies at 78


Matilda McEwen Mendez, a longtime resident of Riverdale, died on Oct. 20, just four days after her 78th birthday. The cause was cancer. 

“Tilly,” as she was known, was three years old when her family moved to Riverdale in 1941. She graduated from the Fieldston School and received her A.B. degree from Bennington College and M.A. from Columbia University. Except for three years in Manhattan following her marriage to Ruben P. Mendez, who survives her, Tilly lived continuously in Riverdale. She taught for 30 years at the Riverdale Country School, where she was highly prized by the students, parents and fellow teachers. 

Ms. McEwen Mendez grew up in a red brick house near the Riverdale railroad station. Her father, Dr. O. Currier McEwen, commuted daily by train to the New York University School of Medicine, where he was the dean for 19 years. Their neighborhood was still quite rural, and she and her siblings played, often barefoot, in open fields, with their neighbors from Robin Hill, an enclave off Palisade Avenue. Across the street from the McEwen house, the children were allowed to romp in the bucolic estate of the conductor Arturo Toscanini, now the site of Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy.

Ms. McEwen Mendez traveled extensively. Her husband was a development economist for the United Nations in New York. With their two children, they went to the Philippines on home leave every two years. En route, the family often took time to visit parts of Asia, Mexico, Europe and the Middle East. Tilly also accompanied Mr. Mendez on some extended UN assignments in Kenya and Geneva. The family spent part of every summer in Harpswell on the Maine coast, where the McEwens have a summer house.  

Ms. McEwen Mendez was an active member of the Riverdale community. She was a member of the Shakespeare Club of Riverdale, where she was president for two years, and of the Riverdale Yacht Club. She sang in the choir of the Riverdale Presbyterian Church, where she also served as a deacon and an elder. For many years, she was a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, where she served on the International Visitors Committee. 

In addition to her husband of 54 years, Ms. McEwen Mendez is survived by their daughter Katy McEwen Mendez, son Tomas Currier Mendez, grandsons Benjamin and James McCoy and Daschle Mendez, siblings Ann Standridge, Kathy Goodrich, Dr. Ewen McEwen, and numerous family members in the United States and the Philippines.

An interfaith memorial service will be held in the Riverdale Presbyterian Church at noon on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Matilda McEwen Mendez, Riverdale Country School