The recent passing of my aunt Coralie has been sitting heavy on my heart as she was very dear to me. Most of my young life she lived in Texas. During her annual visits to Tucson I appreciated how she made a special effort to spend time with me.
A lifelong traveler, she’d send me postcards from whatever far-off country she was exploring. Her gallivanting filled me with wonder and, while I was born with a curious spirit, Coralie gets credit for encouraging my wanderlust.
Born in 1930, Coralie marched to the beat of her own drum, which wasn’t always easy back then. The family moved from Milwaukee to Tucson in 1934 in hopes of finding a brighter place to weather the Great Depression. After graduating from Tucson High School she began working in local government. That career path led her to Denver where she took the civil service exam which resulted in a job at the Pentagon.
In the late 1960s, in a very unusual departure from the family’s hardworking ethic, Coralie quit her job and hopped on a freighter bound for Europe. After a few months of touring around she walked onto the Weisbaden Air Force Base and landed a job as a secretary. Several years later she transferred back stateside, to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Coralie worked in the purchasing department for the C-5A Galaxy (at that time the largest aircraft in the US fleet). She loved her job and excelled at it, even attending night school in order to get a college degree to further her advancement. She especially delighted in her paid vacations and used her time off to continue her worldly travels.
Since Coralie enjoyed her work, she was in no hurry to retire. Every year, after age 65, the General she worked for would ask her when she was going to retire. With a wink Coralie would reply, “You’ll be the first to know.” Turns out, the military had to close the base in order to finally get her to retire!
In early 2001 she moved back to Tucson, to my great joy. Over the last eighteen years I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with Coralie. Since she never married or had children, my step-sister and I happily filled in the latter role. Many a laughter-filled evening was spent around her dining room table. Game nights were especially fun (though you had to keep a close eye on Coralie, since she inherited Grandma’s penchant for a little self-dealing, if you know what I mean).
While her traveling had slowed in the past few years, in the end she had visited every continent (except Antarctica). A dedicated member of her church and supporter of several charitable organizations, Coralie’s intelligence and thirst for knowledge will be missed by many.
I will especially miss our long conversations and random adventures: museum visits, lectures, outdoor concerts, and even a behind-the-scenes tour of the University of Arizona’s sports facilities. Bon voyage on your last trip, Coralie, I will treasure all our wonderful memories…