January 10, 1926 – February 3, 2018
Cornelia Young Branch Nesmith, 92 years young, passed away with grace from a brief illness on February 3, 2018. She was surrounded by her loving family at the time of her death. Her courage, strength, and dignity never faltered during her final days.
Born to Viola and Henry Emerson Young on January 10, 1926 in Bachelor’s Hall, Virginia, Cornelia, along with her four sisters and four brothers, grew up on a pastoral working tobacco farm which today is known as “Windy Acres” and is presently listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Virginia. The Young legacy is one of faith, family and a reverence for the land toiled by a century of hearts and hands. Our Mother was lovingly nicknamed “Neely” by her beloved family, and eventually “Nana” by her adoring grandchildren. Her golden blonde locks, windswept throughout her young years by rolling farm breezes, her lilac blue eyes and her generosity of spirit towards all remained the hallmark of her country girl values that would define her integrity and character throughout her life.
Upon graduation from high school, Cornelia moved to Durham, North Carolina where she was gainfully employed at Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. As fate would have it, she met her husband, Dallas Devon Branch Sr., a UNC graduate, member of the ATO fraternity and a veteran who served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy in World War II. On 300 acres of land between Durham and Chapel Hill, they together raised one son and five daughters teaching a love for God, family and Mother Nature. She was preceded in death in 1987 by her husband.
Cornelia moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she lived for 20 years and was a member of the Myers Park Baptist Church. She also vacationed and eventually lived at Sunset Beach, North Carolina for 17 years. Her love for the sea and long walks to Bird Island made her a true “kindred spirit” of the community of friends who grew to love and adore her. While living on the coast, Cornelia also became a faithful and loyal servant to the St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Her presiding minister, Dr. Wilmont Merchant, remained a beloved and trusted friend throughout the remainder of her life.
Cornelia’s love for travel and family were the cornerstones for her sense of adventure. For example, always “Young” at heart, at 70 years of age, Cornelia hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Since her children and grandchildren, fondly nicknamed the “Scattered Crew,” lived across the United States, she often found herself in the wilderness of Alaska, on the beaches of Maui and Santa Barbara, Chicago, New York, West Virginia, Georgia, but always returning home to her cherished Virginia and North Carolina. Often one of her biggest dilemmas was choosing her next destination depending on the needs of her loved ones—including the births of her grandchildren (two of which were born on the same day!) and most recently, her first great-grandchild. Her children were often left drawing straws for her time and attention.
Cornelia spent the final six years of her life at Aldersgate Retirement Community in Charlotte, North Carolina where she was the “belle of the ball” and blessed with many new and loving friends. The family would especially like to thank Aldersgate, Novant Health Presbyterian Center, Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Aldersgate, and her devoted private caregivers, Paula Hinnant and Arnetta Hatten.
Cornelia is survived by her six children, Pam Church-Hart (Carroll), Dallas D. Branch Jr. (Jeannine), Rebecca Swift (Ted), Eleanor Roper, Cyndi Schindler (Mark) and Missy Short (Steve), her eleven grandchildren, Bartow, Mark, Molly, Dallas, Russell, Oliver, Natalie, Emerson, Jamie, Mark and Michael, one great-granddaughter Cecily, and three sisters Clara Durham, Roberta “Birdie” Brown and Barbara Burn.
At 3 pm on February 9, 2018, a celebration of Cornelia’s life will be held at Markham Memorial Gardens (4826 Trenton Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27517) with family and friends. Donations can be made to the Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Aldersgate in her name, Cornelia Young Branch Nesmith.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller