Rhea Eshelman, 69, formerly of Bristol

Rhea Eshelman, 69, passed away on June 7, 2013, almost 30 years after she was diagnosed with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis, a testimony to a life of graceful resilience, unflagging faith, quiet determination and valiant optimism that was – and is – an inspiration to anyone fortunate enough to call her friend.
Born on July 24, 1943, to Elmer Rounds and Rhea Mainville Rounds, she was the first of five children and grew up on Beach Road on the edge of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. As a student she worked at Newport Creamery, starting a sweet family tradition, and she finished as the valedictorian for the class of 1961 at Colt Memorial High School, now known as Bristol Senior High School. That academic excellence continued in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where she joined Alpha Zeta Delta and also sang in the University Choir, which deepened her love of music and performance into a lifelong enthusiasm. Her Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology in 1965 was an uncommon achievement for a young woman of that era and is burnished by the stature of the university medical school, the oldest in the nation. Her career would take her to Memorial Hospital and then Mayo Clinic Hospital, both in Jacksonville, Flor., her home since the early 1970s and the place where she raised four daughters, Tracy, Kelly, Paige and Caryn, and shared her life with William Eshelman, her husband of 29 years.
Her career in science was paired with a rich spiritual life centered in Jacksonville at Resurrection Catholic Church where she was an engaged and caring parishioner since 1973. She would channel equal energies into the MS Society as a peer counselor and into the MS Walk as a fundraising volunteer and even as role model when a photograph with her beaming smile was used in a regional campaign. The United Way of Northeast Florida lauded her determination in Faces of United Way campaign in 2000 even as she continued to work through 2008. When she was honored by Mayo she made it clear that no mobility challenge and no prognosis could alter her innate traits of empathy, practicality and engagement:
"I can make a difference, and I can help people as a result of MS. It's been a positive experience in many ways."
She was predeceased by her parents and a brother, Daniel. She is survived by her loving husband William, daughters Tracy Boucher (Geoff), Kelly White (David), Paige Pasquale (Dom), Caryn Scott (Doug), Amy Frazier, and Cheri Hayes (Wes), and siblings Tina Barboza, Andrew Rounds, and Kenny Rounds of Rhode Island. She is also survived by her nine grandchildren; Hannah Burlingame, Addie and Ben Boucher, Megan Zeiher, Brandon Hersey, Matt and Tyler Pasquale, and Aidan and Sean Scott.
A Memorial Mass was held in her honor on Friday, June 14, at Resurrection Catholic Church, located at 3383 University Boulevard North. A reception followed in the parish hall.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to the Rhea Eshelman Memorial Fund set up through the Northeast Florida Chapter of the MS Society.

Rhea Eshelman


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

2016 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Prudence Island · Riverside · Rumford · Seekonk · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.