Cornelius Wright Arensberg

by Anna Lomax Wood

Cornelius Wright Arensberg died on August 14, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Born in Presbyterian Hospital in New York City on June 19, 1951 to Margaret Jacqueline Walsh Arensberg and Conrad Maynadier Arensberg, Cornel (or ‘Corny’, as he was known to his family) spent his formative years in Radburn, New Jersey, and Maryland, and lived for a time in India with his father, an anthropologist. He attended St. Andrews School and Columbia University, graduating in 1972. After a period of travel in Europe and Asia, Cornel obtained a law degree at Stetson University and was admitted to the Florida bar in 1978. The following year he joined the U.S. army, serving in South Korea and Naples, Italy, where he rose to the rank of Captain and was appointed to the Judge Advocate General’s staff of the Allied Forces of Southern Europe. Cornel was awarded the Army Commendation Medal in 1980 and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in 1983, and received an honorable discharge in 1987.

His international interests, his language gifts (he spoke French, Italian, Spanish and Korean, and had some Japanese, Russian and Esperanto), and his familiarity with Asian cultures led him to studies at the Institute for International Studies and Training in Fujinomiya, Japan and the American Graduate School of International Management at Thunderbird, where he received a Masters of Business Administration in 1984. After leaving the Army Cornel practiced law in St. Petersburg, Florida, during which time he led a campaign for a recall vote and ran (unsuccessfully) for Councilman 4th District.

In the 1990s, Cornel was off on another great adventure to serve in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan; he later wrote a fascinating memoir of this experience, "The Kazakh Journal." Facing declining health and diminished means over the last several years, Cornel lived in semi-retirement in Tampa and St. Petersburg, while expanding his cultural horizons and caring for his beloved birds. In 2008, Cornel and other Maynadier descendants were adopted into the Brule Sioux tribe.

He died of acute leukemia in his sleep at 4:43 a.m. at the Bay Pines VA Hospice center, having spent the previous ten days at the in the company of his closest friends and loved ones. He was just 59, and leaves disconsolate his sisters, Emily Barton of San Jose, California, and Meg Olson of McMinnville, Oregon, his cousin, Charles Arensberg of Louisville, Kentucky, and his closest friends, Peter Cushing, Odysseus Chairetakis, Anna L. Wood, and Haruki Yokochi, who knew him as a charming, loving person, as humane as he was cultured, the most faithful of friends, and at home with people of all sorts. Cornel’s final words to the world were, "As a last message, to family, to all friends, Nature, our small blue planet, a fond farewell. Love each other, keep peace on Earth, and save our world before it's too late from ecological ruin. If later on, we meet other intelligent life, I send warm greetings. Goodbye, sayonara, adieu, adios, ciao, yiasou, das ve danya." A memorial gathering will be held in Easton, Maryland in the spring.

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