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Cornelia Sally Ayala
  • 91 years old
  • Date of birth: Oct 23, 1924
  • Place of birth:
    Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Date of passing: Jul 24, 2016
  • Place of passing:
    Dallas, Texas, United States
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Cornelia “Sally” Ayala (née Leith, a.k.a. Gaubeca), 91, passed quietly away at her Dallas home in the loving care of family and friends on July 24, 2016. She had a sweet, tender voice that belied the fierceness and resolve of her character. She was always seeking to understand our world and thrived in the study of geography, languages, and nature. She was born in Boston, on October 23, 1924, to Elizabeth H. Benedict and Cecil E. Leith. Her grandparents, now deceased, Dr. Francis G. Benedict and Cornelia Golay, were very involved in her upbringing. As a child, when hired by the artist King Coffin to wash his paintbrushes, she discovered a love for painting. The smell of the fresh strokes on the canvas and the sound of the bristles outlining forms were hymns to the nature she tried to capture.

A lifelong teacher, she knew how to measure each one of her pupils with loving kindness. She was equally comfortable in the silence of a library as in the bustling throng of the Mexico City subway system. Her family and friends often found her in interesting places, like galavanting up and down Mesoamerican archeological sites, carefully documenting discoveries, or taking samples of water and soil from various lakes in México as data for her Geography thesis project. On entering her closet one would be surprised by the weight of her shoe boxes, which instead of expected footwear, hid samples of all types of pebbles, stones and rocks, some meteors, others with incrusted gems.

After marrying Jess B Gaubeca in 1942 in Machiasport, Maine, they traveled extensively, living for several years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she bore her first two children, Lisa Harriot and Michael Jess. They then moved to Linz, Austria, there giving birth to her third child, Juan Valentin. Soon after they moved to Thionville, France to aid in post WWII reconstruction efforts. In 1957, they relocated to Mexico City just in time to experience the large earthquake which is remembered as the one that felled the monument of The Angel.

Later, she experienced a different type of earth moving event when she gave birth to her twins, Susan and Vicki. While living in Mexico City, she became a teacher and a principal at the Hamilton School, now known as The Eton. She also worked with the Guías de México (Girl Scouts) acting as President of the 2 North District Girl Scouts and having the wonderful experience of meeting Lady Baden Powell. Jess’ job made them move again, this time to Monterrey, Mexico, where she continued to teach at the American School Foundation. In 1972, they returned to Mexico City and Sally decided it was time to continue her studies therefore obtaining two Masters, one in Bilingual Education and the other in Geography; the latter at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). At the she same time she continued teaching, again at the Hamilton School. As a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for women educators, she acted as President of the Gamma chapter from 1976 to 1978.

After Jess died in 1978, she met her future husband Juan Antonio Ayala. They moved to Bergerac, France, to take care of her mother, Elizabeth Hanggi, until her passing in 1989. Seeking to live next to the sea, the place she loved the most, they moved to Bayonne, France. However, in 1990, missing her children and grandchildren, they returned to the U.S., deciding to get married and to live in Rio Rico, Arizona. She volunteered her time nearby, in Nogales, teaching English as a Second Language at the Public Library and as a docent at the Hilltop Gallery. In the following years, she lived in Tucson, Arizona, Las Cruces, New Mexico and, finally, Dallas, Texas. Sadly,in 2008, Juan Antonio passed away in Burgos, Spain.

She is survived by her five children: Lisa H. Patella and her fiancé Phil Frisella; Michael Jess Gaubeca and his wife Barbara; Juan Valentin Gaubeca and his wife Margarita; Susan Arzac and her husband, Jorge Arzac, M.D.; and Vicki Gaubeca and her wife Becky Corran. She will be remembered dearly by her grandchildren, Marni “Tigger” Atherton, Andrew Patella, Paula Baird (a.k.a. Arzac, just recently happily married on July 22nd) and her husband David, Val Gaubeca, and Jorge Arzac jr. She is also survived by her brother, Cecil E. Leith, jr. and his wife, Mary, and her half brother, John W. Kimball and his wife Margaret. Also, remembering her with love are her niece Ann Katsoyannos, her husband, Takis, and her son Jason; her half nephew Chris Kimball, his wife Liz and their children, Glenn and Rachel; and, her half nephew, Nick Kimball, his wife, Lynn, and their children, Greg and his husband Michael, and the twins, Jeff and Eric. She is also survived by her nieces, Maricruz Garcia-Rejon and sons Pablo and Santiago; Lucy Espinosa Gaubeca, her husband Jorge Espinosa and children Georgina, Jorge Andres, and Rebecca; and, nephew, Valentin Gaubeca, Jr., his wife Eliana and daughter, Ana. 

A seaside ceremony surrounded with close friends and family will be held in a area dear to her. She would love it if you helped someone in need, donated time and/or money to your local Art Institutions or to a no-kill animal shelter, plant a tree or two, and live life surrounded as she did, with joy, love, and friendships.

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by L McPherson on 12th September 2016

"The death of a loved one can be very painful and weight heavily on our hearts.loosing such a kind person whose legacy have paved the way for so many people have been a good testimony and lasting memories for you all to treasure.(John 5:28,29)"do not be amazed at this,for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tomb will here his voice and come out ".my deepest sympathy to you all."

This tribute was added by Chance Chanc.e on 1st September 2016

"Dear Ayala Family please accept my heartfelt condolences..May you throw all your anxiety upon the true God because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:7.I hope the love and support from our Heavenly Father comforts you."

This tribute was added by Jack McGarvey on 26th August 2016

"Sally’s passing saddens me more than I could ever express.  But it also brings back so many wonderful memories.

The first time I met Sally happened shortly after I’d emigrated from Connecticut to Rio Rico. I’d become a bit lonely after settling in, and I printed up a flyer to invite neighbors to my home for a potluck supper.  

I then took a very long hike to distrubute the flyers to about 30 or so homes in this sparsely populated town.  Mostly, I just laid the flyers on porches underneath a good-sized rock.to  then sort of slink away.

But when I reached Sally’s house, I heard a Mozart concerto blasting out from its open windows.  I remember thinking that someone who’s also a fan of my favorite composer is someone I’d really like to meet. And so, I decided to open her front gate to knock at her door.

As I did, a very large, fiercely tail-wagging German Shepherd came tearing around from a corner of her house to put its paws up on the gate.  I backed off, while managing, miraculously, to attach the flyer to Sally’s gate.

The potluck supper was a success, especially because the first guest to appear was Sally. She came in, grasped my hand, to say, “So sorry that Max scared you off the other day.”

And so, that was the beginning of a deep friendship that lasted almost two decades.

My memories include those sunny mornings when I’d stop by Sally’s house for a cup of coffee, when we’d talk about nearly everything under the sun.

What I soon discovered was a wonderful, compassionate, and idealistic woman.

But Sally, maybe because she had 13 years on me, also became my mentor.

She told me that the best way to live in Rio Rico was to brush up on my high school Spanish.  Which she emphasized by speaking to me during some of those morning visits only in her flawless Spanish.  She also approved of my feeble attempts to help migrants who kept appearing in the valley below our homes: “We’re all migrants here, aren't we?”

Indeed we are, Sally, and I will forever be grateful for your reminding me of this.

To  me, it’s  likely that Sally Ayala will remain as the most loving, cosmopolitan, most open-minded woman I have ever met.














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This tribute was added by Jo Oliver on 13th August 2016

"My heart goes out to the family for the loss of your loved one.  Draw close to the God of all comfort and receive the strength to endure this trial.  2 Corinthians 1:3, 4"

This tribute was added by John Kimball on 11th August 2016

"After 68 years of separation, I feel so fortunate to have finally found Sally in time to get to know both her and her wonderful family."

This tribute was added by Carmen Gómez Ayala on 8th August 2016

"This has been for us a sad but also sweet news,
As Isabel, my sister, says in her tribute, it was only a few days ago, when our mother (Juan Antonio's Sister) suddenly thought about Sally and asked herself what would be about her. Thanks to that fact, we have contacted this page.
For sure it was Sally's energy an her soul who was telling us "Hey! I'm here!!"
So, we send to all of you, Sally's family and all her friends, our best wishes an our condolences.
Remember that you will always have a small family in Spain, who enjoyed and will enjoy forever the memory of so many sweets and charming moments that we shared with Sally and Juan Antonio."

This tribute was added by Isabel Gomez Ayala on 6th August 2016

"I´d  like send a special sympathy from my mother Isabel. It was she who, one week ago, reminding Sally was asked about her and me, that had my laptop in hand, by putting her name came to this page. It was very casual and very exciting for my Mum. It seems as if Sally was who wanted her goodbye."

This tribute was added by Isabel Gomez Ayala on 6th August 2016

"From Spain, the Ayala family makes them reach their deepest condolences for the passing of our dear Sally. She was the light that lit some years the life of Juan Antonio. It was always a great pleasure for us to share trips, Christmas and long talks with her. Rest in peace."

This tribute was added by Amanda Irwin on 3rd August 2016

"Sally made me feel at home in her, Susana's and Vicki's apartment in Mexico City when we were in college and would come there to study and get together with friends. I felt like a member of the family, and will always remember her loving smile and caring words."

This tribute was added by Veronica Irvine on 3rd August 2016

"As I watched your daughter
Tenderly and attentively loving you
I could always imagine what you gave as a mother"

This tribute was added by Liz Panchuk on 1st August 2016

"I remember Sally as a very warm and loving person with an open mind that allowed her to live such an interesting life. Great smile also!"

This tribute was added by Luis Flores on 1st August 2016

"Always was a pleasure to be with Sally, she was always very sweet and kind with everybody."

This tribute was added by Solange Alford on 31st July 2016

"Sally, I met you late in life, and yet I could feel and see the treasure you held in your heart! You added joy to our life!  I will always remember you!"

This tribute was added by Inna Kogan on 31st July 2016

"Extraordinary woman ,intelligent, optimistic,loved the life and everything live can give. I loved her smile..."

This tribute was added by John Wise on 30th July 2016

"What an interesting life she had!"

This tribute was added by Lucy Gaubeca on 29th July 2016

"She always had interesting conversations, recommended great books, birthday parties at her home were awsome. She had a lovely smile!!"


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This memorial is administered by:

Juan Gaubeca
Lisa Patella
Susan Gaubeca
Susan Arzac
Vicki Gaubeca

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