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Cynthia Margaret Gentry


1916 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Cynthia Margaret Gentry Obituary
Cynthia Margaret Gentry
July 14, 1916 – July 31, 2014
Resident of Santa Cruz
"Behold the angels, for without being seen, they are here among you." – Memorial Bench, Stern Grove, San Francisco
In spite of progressive dementia, which gradually claimed her functioning, Cynthia retained her characteristic optimism, infectious laugh, cheerfulness, curiosity about the world around her, and love of life until the end. She never complained of the physical discomfort nor the difficulties she encountered as a result of her memory loss, instead always interested in how others were doing, especially her family.
She died at her residence Wesley House in La Selva Beach, aged 98.
Cynthia, known by early friends and family as Peggy, was born in Sevenoaks, Kent in the east of England, and her attachment to her British roots and family, as well as her accent, never left her. As a young girl, she recalled how badly she wanted to attend school in an era when girls were forbidden to do so, and so with her older sister Sheila, was home-schooled by a governess. Her, father, whom she adored, volunteered with the Cameron Highlanders of the Queen's Own Surrey Rifles during WWI, serving three years in the trenches along the Maginot Line and in Belgium. Because he was gassed, and required a change of climate, the family moved to South Africa when Cynthia was nine, living there for four years while her father regained his health. She loved the vastness of Africa, the diversity of the ethnic tribesmen and other nationals they lived with, and the "camping" expeditions into the bush (involving scouts, a convoy of lorries, and porters!).
Upon return to England, Cynthia was able to attend school at the Manor House, in Limpsfield, Surrey. While there, she excelled not only in her studies and leadership, but in lacrosse, tennis, and golf. She also enjoyed following the foxhounds. After graduation, she spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris, learning to speak and write French, and then attended the Froebel Institute where she earned a degree and teaching credential. She taught at boy's preparatory schools and King's College.
Cynthia was traveling on a bicycle holiday through Bavaria in 1939 when WWII broke out, and was urgently summoned home by family who were frantic to find her and get her home safely. She was narrowly able to leave Germany, and upon return to England, enlisted in the Royal Air Force where she was commissioned as a Lieutenant. She was stationed at a radar base where she operated the GEE system, helping airmen navigate during the air campaigns over France and the English Channel. While there, she met and married John Gentry, a G.I. stationed nearby with the U.S. Army Air Corps.
When the war ended, Cynthia came to California as a war bride. She vividly recalled cooking classes she attended with other war brides on the "bride boat" to New York, including the memorably titled "Feed the Brute". She adopted her new country with enthusiasm, and although her love of England never wavered, she loved being an American.
In 1946, she and John purchased six acres of beautiful redwood forest on the Mendocino coast at Gualala. The next year, daughter Olivia arrived and the family lived in Sacramento, where Cynthia worked as a teacher and she and John were foster parents. Cynthia returned to England and gave birth to son Christopher in 1951. The family then moved within California, living in Sunnyvale (when it was all apricot and cherry orchards!), San Pedro, and then Glendora where Cynthia worked for many years as a librarian. The family also lived in Australia, in the outback near Alice Springs.
Throughout the years Cynthia pursued other independent travels, including camping in the Alaskan wilderness, a trek across New Zealand, and an expedition into the rainforest of Costa Rica.
Upon retirement from the Glendora library in 1982, Cynthia returned to live among the redwoods she loved on the Mendocino coast at Gualala. In customary fashion, and with noteworthy enthusiasm she was engaged with the community around her, including work as a hospice volunteer, innkeeper for the Old Milano and Whale Watch Inns, and lighthouse keeper for the Point Arena Lighthouse. She also obtained her real estate license, working full time until age 89 when she fell and broke her ankle.
Cynthia then relocated to Santa Cruz in 2005 to live near her son, initially staying downtown on Pacific Avenue, which she described as "colorful". She then moved to the community at Dominican Oaks, which she loved, and then more recently when her needs became greater, to Wesley House.
Of primary importance were her family, and lifetime friendships. Her ability to sustain relationships over the decades was remarkable, and she was an avid letter writer and communicator.
Because of the importance she attached to family and friends, there was often a steady stream of guests staying with the family, frequently for extended periods of time. In particular, she welcomed relatives from abroad, and she delighted in renewing acquaintances.
Cynthia was uniquely and genuinely herself. She was entirely unpretentious, and disdained those who were. She was quite content to ride the shuttle bus from Gualala to Santa Rosa (an all-day round trip) with her peanut butter sandwich, banana, and of course, a good book. She adored all of life, and was interested, curious, and engaged. She held some strong views, particularly when she perceived unfairness, but had the wisdom and discernment not to broadcast them. She was eminently compassionate toward the less fortunate, and generously supported causes she believed in, especially those dedicated toward preservation of the natural world. She loved the ocean, the sound of the wind in the redwoods, and the soft light that filtered through the forest and across her meadow, which was often visited by deer, quail, and the occasional mountain lion! She loved good conversation, storytelling, a great cup of English tea, chocolate, and the San Francisco Giants.
Cynthia was, in essence, open and welcoming to all.
She was a lifetime Anglican and participant and supporter of the St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Fort Bragg.
In addition to her son Christopher and daughter Olivia, Cynthia leaves a grandson Brooks and great-grandson Lucas living in Southern California, as well as a sister Mary, of Somerset, England. She is also survived by many English nieces, nephews, and cousins in whom she delighted. Her brother Jock and sister Sheila died before her.
A memorial service will take place at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, September 14, 2014 in the Oaks Room at Dominican Oaks, 3400 Paul Sweet Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95065. (831) 462-6257 or (831) 464-4807
If you would like to offer condolences to Cynthia's family, share your memories and light a candle in her honor, please visit www.scmemorial.com
Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Aug. 8, 2014
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