Cornelia Chandler Gehring, 83, passed away peacefully Wednesday, September 20, 2017 in her son Bill’s home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, surrounded by family.
Cornelia was born on November 12, 1933 to Homer and Leona (Hoffman) Chandler in Miami, Okla. She married Eloy V. Gehring on June 20, 1958 in Freeport, Ill. He preceded her in death on September 24, 2011. In Rochelle, Ill., Cornelia worked as an administrative assistant for Precision Optical and then for Caron International until her retirement. Most recently, she managed the Presbyterian Thrift Shop. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Rochelle.
Cornelia was born in Miami, Okla. and lived there as a young child. Her mother moved her and her brother Joe to Freeport, Ill., where she graduated from high school and had many close friends and relatives. She worked with the Furst-McNess company in Freeport when she met Eloy, and the two were married in 1958. Eloy at the time was working toward his degree in music education at Northern Illinois University. His teaching took them to Chadwick, Ill., and then to Maxwell, Iowa, where they lived when Bill was born. From there they moved to Lanark, Ill. when Eloy became director of bands, joyful years because of the birth of David and the close-knit, small-town community that Cornelia always preferred. In 1968, the family settled in Rochelle.
Cornelia was funny, engaging, and perceptive, with an incisive intelligence. She loved Rochelle and its people, and felt that there was no finer place to live. She felt a kinship with her friends from Precision Optical, Caron, and church that lasted as long as her memories stayed with her, and she was moved when so many people reached out upon Eloy’s passing. Growing into adolescence during World War II, Cornelia had a deep admiration for the Greatest Generation. She saw first-hand the toll the war took from the boarders in her mother’s home who lost loved ones in the war. She often shared her admiration for local veterans and the sacrifices they made. Cornelia treasured every opportunity to learn, from trips to museums, to concerts (including many of her husband’s, children’s, and grandchildren’s), to historical sites that many people would drive past without thinking.
Cornelia had a moral compass and natural compassion that led her to care for others around her in meaningful but quiet ways. For the Presbyterian Thrift Shop, she spent many long hours sorting and tagging clothes and other odd items. Her sons remember many Christmases in which Eloy would take them to neighbors’ houses to deliver her foil-covered plates of Christmas cookies. She looked after senior citizens (including her mother and stepfather) and a neighbor with mental illness. She had a special affection for cats, which gave her countless hours of joy in Rochelle and later in Michigan, where she lived in her son Bill’s home for many months until her passing.
Cornelia is survived by her two sons: Dr. William (Andrea) Gehring of Ann Arbor, Mich. and Dr. David (Susan) Gehring of Toddville, Iowa; her brother, Joseph (Joanie) Chandler of Burr Ridge, Ill.; her grandchildren: Calvin, Caroline, and Evie, and her stepsister, Jane (Bob) Crane of Elmhurst, Ill. In addition to her parents and husband, she is also preceded in death by her stepfather Charles Reed, formerly of Rochelle.
The visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, October 1, 2017 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. 6th St., Rochelle. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, October 2nd at the First Presbyterian Church, 1100 Calvin Road, Rochelle with Rev. Dr. James Tilley officiating. Burial will follow the service at the Lawnridge Cemetery in Rochelle. Memorials may be made in Cornelia’s memory to the First Presbyterian Church. Visit www.ungerhorner.com to sign the online guest book.
In 1960, Cornelia wrote a letter to her mother in which she expressed the following sentiment: “I’ve thought so many times a mother’s love is the nearest expression of divine love a person can ever know on Earth.” Cornelia indeed gave her family this gift her entire life, and it will continue to be her legacy for generations to com