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Cornelia Bancker Wattley

Cornelia Bancker Wattley died peacefully the morning of the 16th of February, 2019, at her home in Belvedere, California. She was 91 years of age. Memorial services will be held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Belvedere, CA, 11:00am to 2:00pm on Thursday, April 25, 2019, and at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans on May 10, 2019.

Nela, whom her family called “Sis,” grew up in New Orleans, the daughter of the Rev. Canon Donald Hubert Wattley and Cornelia Hutton Laurans Wattley. She graduated from Metairie Park Country Day School and from Sweet Briar College in Virginia with a major in French. In New York City, Bellevue Hospital employed Nela as an electroencephalogram (EEG) technician. Later she became a practitioner and advocate of the Montessori method of education.

About fifty-five years ago, she fell in love and moved to California. Although there is some factual basis in that last statement, it actually worked the other way around — she moved to California and fell in love with the climate of Marin County; with the ecology of the West (and more generally, with that of the planet); with nature conservancy; with her neighboring city; with the close-at-hand Yosemite and everything about it, from the back country to the Ahwahnee Hotel; and with many, many fine friends. In fact, friends have been Nela’s life-long blessing.

It was in California that Nela found her life’s passion — art. She produced prolifically consistently fine sketches and watercolors, which she quite often kept in her personal sphere, and acrylics, many of which were triumphant. Important recognition came in the form of exhibitions and publications. But the recognition she most appreciated came from her patrons — “I’m happy to have some of her wonderful artwork on my walls” and “(Her paintings) are centerpieces in my rooftop studio. They were derived, as you know, from her trusty Sierras on-site sketchbook!”

For everything from strokes of the brush to social banter to excursions in the woods to religious faith and philosophy of life, she had a style of her own. Nela was a remarkable woman, an artist, an independent soul who was content with her life and found enormous pleasure in others as much as she found it in the beauty of nature.

Nela is survived by many descendants of her brother James Cooper Wattley and of the cousins she grew up with, Jennie Ross Parsons and Mathilde Ross Holladay. She will be sorely missed by many dear friends. For the last 11 years she was lovingly cared for by Jocelyn Knight Cacciatore, long-tenured nurse Nanettee Canseco, and for the last several months, Hospice by the Bay, for all of whom words of recognition fall far short of adequate. We were lucky to have known her.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to any of the following charities: The Nature Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, and Hospice By the Bay.

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