Cornelia (Neal)Vanderbilt Kissam McHenry Early was born on the Kissam family farm on Pierces Road in Newburgh, NY, on May 30, 1921. Just before her 96th birthday, she passed quietly away on May 1, 2017 at her daughter’s home in California with two of her daughters lovingly at her side.

Daughter of Richard Varick Kissam, Sr. and Wilhelmina Witlow, Neal graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in 1938. She married William Stewart McHenry, Jr., but was widowed at 22 just before the November 1943 birth of their first daughter. Her husband was killed in action in WWII when his B-24 bomber was shot down over Burma in October 1943. Several years later she fell in love with and married John (Jack) E. Early, Sr., who was a highly decorated P-47 and P-51 fighter pilot during WWII. Together, they had three more children and celebrated more than 50 years of marriage.

Neal worked alongside Jack in the late 1940s through the 1950s and 1960s in his Stork Diaper Service business. As an entrepreneur, she then opened her own shop, Maternity Fashions, on Liberty Street in Newburgh, operating that business for more than 15 years. She was a lifetime member of Beta Sigma Phi International Sorority; founded in 1931 for the social, cultural, and civic enrichment of its members. Members have donated approximately $1 million to medical research and treatment through The Endowment Fund. An avid bowler, Neal continued to bowl on a bowling league into her 80s. She was inducted into the Women Bowlers Hall of Fame. She was also an avid reader, very patriotic, and loved music. Her family loved it when she would sing and yodel.

She is survived by her children: Jean Minuta and her husband, Vincent, of Washingtonville, NY, John Early, Jr. of Newburgh, NY, Ruth Albertson and her husband, Robert, of Santa Cruz, CA, and Nancy Early and her husband, Michael Huff of Prunesdale, CA. Cornelia has eight grandchildren: Joseph J. Minuta, Lisa Gorke, Dana Minuta, Jennifer Early, Erin Copelan, Tricia Albertson, Alisha Morganstern and Robert Huff, plus five great grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, John Early, Sr. and her siblings: Marie Keesler, Richard V. Kissam, Jr. and Wilhelmina Burr.

Visitation will be on Monday, May 8, 2017, from 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM at Brooks Funeral Home, 481 Gidney Avenue, Newburgh, NY. On Tuesday, May 9, a funeral service will be held at 11 AM at the funeral home, with burial following in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Newburgh.

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