Kathleen “Kathy” Mary Cornelius, of Alabama Center, NY, died as she lived Wednesday, September 9, 2020: when she was good and ready, in the presence of her husband and children. Her calling as a devoted caregiver with strong opinions ran as a theme throughout her life, from family to work, and from childhood to adulthood.
Kathy was born in Buffalo on July 3, 1949, to the late Paul J. Schmitz and Mary Jane (Ries) Schmitz. She graduated from Bishop O’Hern High School in 1968. In 1970, she married Francis “Skip” Cornelius. During their 50 years of marriage, they raised three children and their oldest grandchild, whose growth into the fine young man he has become brought her so much happiness in recent years.
In addition to taking care of her home and family, she worked for many years as a private caregiver, later cooked at St. Anthony’s Rectory in Batavia, and also ran a craft business with her husband for more than 20 years. Lured by the thrill of the haggle, Kathy enjoyed going to garage and estate sales, meticulously plotting her weekend routes early in the week. In her later years, despite vehemently protesting that she “didn’t use computers,” and that the iPad didn’t count, she became a power eBay shopper.
Though she was the fourth of six children, Kathy earned the nickname “Bossy the Cow” by her father for her take-charge attitude, and she was a force to be reckoned with throughout her adult life. Her many nieces and nephews vividly remember having their attitudes adjusted at “Camp Aunt Kathy.” She ran a tight ship, showing her love through high standards, strong opinions, and the copious application of the word “no.”
Kathy was also sincerely generous, loving, protective, and deeply compassionate. She was a fierce advocate for and devoted caregiver to each of her parents late in their lives. She loved her siblings and their families and enjoyed raising her children so close to their cousins. Kathy cherished her memories of the things they did together: outings to Olcott Beach, Crystal Beach, and the cottage on Rushford Lake; trips to Lake Placid; ceramics classes with her mother and sisters; the famous “Sisters’ Night” gatherings; Ornament Exchanges; Bills’ playoff game parties; family visits after Saturday night Mass; and countless shared vacations, holidays, birthday parties, baby showers, christenings, First Communions, graduations, and weddings. She had a lifelong distrust of food prepared by anyone other than her mother and siblings, and perhaps a few talented in-laws. She was herself known for making a mean tuna salad.
Her six grandchildren brought out the very best and most indulgent parts of her and put them permanently on display. Her nieces and nephews would be shocked to see how thoroughly “Camp Aunt Kathy” transformed into an all-inclusive resort and spa for the grandkids, the word “no” conspicuously absent. She loved her grandchildren dearly and was so proud of them.
Kathy is survived by her loving and devoted husband, Francis “Skip” Cornelius; children Stephanie (Timothy) Benson, Steven Cornelius, and Douglas Cornelius; oldest grandchild Chandler Cornelius; grandsons Aiden and Ethan Cornelius, and their mother Tara (Tim) Wilkosz; the Benson grandchildren Mary, Timothy, and Eleanor. She is also survived by five siblings, Carolynn Naab, Paul (Donna) Schmitz, Joe (Rondina) Schmitz, Christine Reigle, and Mary Jane (Christopher) Wojnar; and many nieces and nephews.
No prior visitation. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 1:00 PM at St. Maximillian Kolbe Church, 18 West Main Street, Corfu, NY 14036. Kathy’s family would like to express their profound appreciation for everyone involved in her care over the past year, and to those who reached out to her, who prayed for her, and who just listened, and for all of the assistance from family and friends. Arrangements by Ross Funeral Home of Akron, LLC. To share memories and condolences with Kathleen’s family, please visit rossakron.com.