Lasting Memories

Cornelia Anne Dellenbaugh
Dec. 28, 1948-Dec. 28, 2012
New York, New York

Submitted by Beth Guislin

Cornelia Anne Dellenbaugh of New York, N.Y., died on her birthday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Mt. Sinai Hospital. Sailor and world-class explorer of ideas as much as remote islands, singer and musician, folk dancer, painter, fierce intellectual, brilliant computer scientist, devoted mother to her beloved son, Cornelia's life filled a broad canvas, bearing uncanny resemblance to that of her artist/explorer great-grandfather, Frederick Dellenbaugh, a founder of The Explorer's Club (NYC).

Cornelia was born on Dec. 28, 1948, in Palo Alto, Calif., to Marguerite Canfield Dellenbaugh and Frederick S. Dellenbaugh III. She grew up in Fairfield, Conn., graduated from Kathleen Laycock Country Day School (now Greens Farms Academy) in 1966, and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970.

Cornelia is predeceased by her parents, and her partner, Joe McNaulty, and survived by her son, Drew Burgut Dellenbaugh, her sisters, Caro, Anne and Meg Dellenbaugh, and her niece, Jareka Dellenbaugh-Dempsey.

Cornelia began traveling as soon as she graduated from high school, choosing a summer in France over a debutante ball, traveling to the Balkans to participate in folk dance festivals, and at age 22, entering the Peace Corps. This fulfilled part of a dream she had had since seventh grade, when she read an article about a Peace Corps volunteer who built a boat for a fishing village and another for himself which he sailed home. The Peace Corps sent her to a village in rural Thailand where she organized community nutrition and mother-child health programs.

Cricket, as she was known then, was one of only two women, out of 200 volunteers, to complete a two-year assignment in a rural area. She signed on for a third Peace Corps year, working in the Ministry of Health in Bangkok, analyzing health data and training new volunteers. Simultaneously, Cricket oversaw construction of her 35' ferro-cement sloop, Brillig, manifesting the second half of her childhood vision.

In February 1975, Cornelia set sail, with her father and friends, from Bangkok, heading for home, albeit circuitously. Her father remained on board as far as Singapore, after which they sailed on to Australia for a year. From there they explored remote Indonesian islands, returned to Singapore and headed toward Borneo. Their passage was interrupted in October 1977, when the Vietnamese captured Brillig with Cornelia and her two crew. They were held, each in solitary confinement, for nearly four months, when they were released and allowed to return to the boat. The crew sailed Brillig through the Indian Ocean, the Maldives, the Seychelles, around the Cape of Good Hope, and through the Caribbean, arriving safely in Pequot Harbor in Southport, Connecticut, in August 1981.

Cornelia earned a Master's degree in Public Health at UCLA, focusing on occupational and environmental health. She was a rare technologist who had a deep understanding of research design, statistical analyses, programming, and the meaning and interpretation of data results. At the time of her death, Cornelia was a Senior Programmer Analyst for the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, working on the World Trade Center Health Program. She was analyzing data gathered from following 25,000 people who cleaned up the 911 Ground Zero site.

She moved to New York City in 1986, where she honed her skills in public health and pharmaceutical research. She found a spiritual home in and became a devoted member of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields where she loved to sing in the choir. In a chance encounter, she met Joe McNaulty, who became her life partner. In 1999, she fulfilled her other long-time dream when she journeyed to Buryatia, in the Russian Far East, to bring home her son, Burgut, who was lovingly welcomed by the family, especially Joe, who delighted in being his new father. Together they explored New York and environs on foot, sailed Joe's boat on the Hudson, rode narrow gauge trains wherever they found them and swam off the Fire Island beaches. Cornelia helped to run after-school programs at PS3 and was instrumental in establishing the PTA at Quest To Learn Charter School. She and Burgut traveled to South Africa with St. Luke's parish and to Poland to visit an old sailing friend. Burgut, now 15, will be well cared for by Cornelia's sisters and his long-time caregiver, Mike Robinson.

Cornelia was vibrantly alive and determined until the very end. On December 15th she played sitar in a concert; she worked until December 20th and wanted a dance party for her birthday on the 28th. Instead she got songs, prayers, and abundant love from family and friends gathered at her bedside. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her.

From Karl Kellar
Sept. 16, 2013

All I can say is my God. I didn't know Cory that well at all. But she left an indelible impression on my life. By happenstance I met her on a shuttle to New York in the mid-eighties. We hit it off and spoke by phone a few times. Several months later, when I had to go to New York again, we met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and went through the collection together. I spoke to her one more time, by phone, a couple of years later. I sent her a book -- Rumors of Spring by Richard Grant. (Funny, I had not thought of that in decades until now.) And that was it. but she left a lasting impression on me; I thought of her over the years and always thought of "what if?" and "it might have been." I would have loved to be a real friend of hers. In my brief exposure she seemed to be a wonderful person. So this morning, again, unbidden, the thought of Cornelia entered my head, but this time the thought became impetus. I would look her up on the internet, reestablish contact, find out how she's been doing all these years. And I am devastated to find that road is not open to me. That chapter is closed. If her death strikes me so profoundly, I can only imagine how stricken her family and friends, those who knew her and loved her, must be. I am so sorry for your loss. I am so envious that you had the privilege of knowing her.

From Pam Harris
April 26, 2013

I didn't know Comelia but this obituary was wonderful to read. I would have loved to have met this exciting, authentic, and independent woman. RIP Comelia! Pam