Life Story for
Cornelia Rose Dickens died peacefully on September 19, 2016 at Daystar, a care facility in Davie, Florida. A devout Christian Scientist and avid vocalist, Cornelia was born November 18, 1931, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, of Wisconsin parents: Olympic track & field coach Frederick William Dickens, Sr., and poet Grace (Gesell) Dickens. She was the youngest of five children.
Her early years in Argentina and Chile (whose Olympic teams her father trained) and LaCrosse, Wisconsin, made Cornelia bilingual and gave her a unique outlook. In following family moves as a young woman, Cornelia’s studies took her to National University of Tucumán (Argentina), University of Maryland, National Conservatory of Music and Academia de la Opera (both in Mexico City), the Hellenic Conservatory of Music (Athens, Greece), and Indiana University’s School of Music. While in Tucumán, Cornelia sang first soprano in “Madrigalistas”, a chorus of 16 voices, under composer/conductor Luigi Castellazzi. She also sang supporting roles in the Mexico City Opera.
Her father’s oversight of the Pan American Games in the 1950s brought Cornelia to Chicago, where she sold fine art for Marshall Field’s department store and sang at St. James’ Episcopal Cathedral under organist/choirmaster Leo Sowerby. In 1958, Cornelia met and married Stanley H. Gordon, a patent writer for the United States Patent Office who later became a mechanical engineer. During their 33-year marriage they raised three children. Stan’s career move brought the Gordons to Massachusetts, where they spent many years in Winchester and Concord. A homemaker, Cornelia substituted as church soloist for dozens of Chicago- and Boston-area churches, eventually accepting a regular soloist position at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Newton, MA. She also sang in Spanish for the first Spanish services of The Mother Church in Boston, translating and adapting her own solos from English texts. After her third child’s birth, Cornelia worked part-time for The Christian Science Publishing Society on a team of translators who produced the first full-length Christian Science Hymnal in Spanish. Later she became Concord’s local advertising representative for The Christian Science Monitor.
Having grown up as an ex-pat, Cornelia enjoyed expressing her patriotism. For America’s Bicentennial (1975–76), she researched and performed in costume numerous Colonial-period songs with harpsichord accompaniment at Old North Church and the Massachusetts State House. She was an active member of Old Concord Chapter/Daughters of the American Revolution, and served as an alternate delegate in New Orleans at the Republican National Convention of 1988. After divorcing when her son came of age, Cornelia moved to Indialantic, FL, to be near her sister, Joy, a retired USIA officer working at Florida Institute of Technology. The two belonged to Brevard Federated Republican Women and traveled to Colombia multiple times with Partners of the Americas. After Joy’s demise, Cornelia moved to California, joining the Santa Barbara Republican Club and enjoying visits to the Reagan Presidential Library. Into her eighties, Cornelia performed in concerts, gave recitals, and sang popular music and jazz.
Cornelia survived all of her siblings: Joy A. Dickens; Fred W. Dickens, Jr.; Charles B. Dickens; and Col. Samuel T. Dickens, II. She leaves behind daughter Glynis Gordon (New Hampshire); daughter Grace Holland, son-in-law William Holland, and granddaughters Sylvia and Lucinda Holland (Maine); and son Charles Gordon, daughter-in-law Sara Gordon, and grandson Benjamin Gordon (California). She is also survived by her niece Pamela Sellars (Virginia) and five nephews: David Dickens (Virginia); Fred Dickens, III (Barbados); Peter Dickens (DC); Sam Dickens, Jr. (Florida); Geoffrey Dickens (Virginia); their families; and cousins Geraldine Gesell (Tennessee and Crete, Greece) and Ann Matteson Shumard (Virginia).
A celebration of her life will be held privately in Concord, MA.
Newspaper obit: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/wickedlocal-concord/obituary.aspx?n=cornelia-r-dickens&pid=181957124