The Life of Mrs. Mary Jo Cornell

May 4, 1924 - October 18, 2022
Mary Jo Cornell, 98, a long-time resident of Fairfield, died peacefully on October 18, 2022. She was born in Bridgeport on May 4, 1924 to Rose and Peter Madaloni. Mary Jo was the widow of A. William "Bill" Cornell, to whom she was happily married for 76 years. She and her late sister Phyllis (Johnson) grew up in a single-family home with their mother, Rose, who supported herself and her girls by working as a hairdresser. It wasn't an easy time, but the Madaloni women found a lot of joy and happiness in their lives. There was always music and laughter, great food and good friends. And there was love. It was a foundation that would serve Mary Jo well and throughout her life she always looked at the bright side.
In 1944, as a young woman, she courageously volunteered to support the war effort by joining WASP (Women's Air Service Pilots). While stationed in Sweetwater, TX she met Bill, a B-24 pilot from Scranton, PA, whose intelligence, quiet demeanor (and good looks) captivated her. The feeling was mutual. They fell in love, married and eventually settled in Fairfield and were blessed with three wonderful, creative kids, Jeff, Linda and Katie.
Throughout her life Mary Jo's interests and accomplishments were eclectic. She was actively involved in the Fairfield community for many years as a successful and admired realtor. She was also an enthusiastic and a devoted Girl Scout leader, whose outstanding personal values helped shape the lives of the many young girls she mentored. She also volunteered in the Roger Ludlowe Mother's Club while her children were students and at Fair Acres Association at Fairfield Beach when her family resided on Lalley Boulevard. She was a force to be reckoned with in the Fairfield Republican Party. She was a passionate advocate on behalf of ecology (a virtue that she enthusiastically passed on to her children and grandchildren). As a co-founder of the Committee to Preserve the Fairfield Shoreline, she was instrumental in preventing the Sun Haven Beach Club from falling into the hands of private developers. With the support of then-First Selectman John Sullivan, the town then bought Sun Haven for one million dollars and it became the Penfield Pavilion, which still serves the entire town.
Mary Jo's contributions and accomplishments were many, but her greatest legacy is undoubtedly the love she had for her family and the great joy they brought to her life and she to theirs, her wonderful, life-long friends and her precious Lord. She was a devout Catholic and trusted in God's grace in all things. She was a presence in every room she entered, perfectly dressed, hair and lipstick done just right. She had thoughtful opinions and she articulated them confidently and succinctly. And she was kind. She had the warmest smile for everyone she met—and you knew it was sincere. She made everyone feel special, because she recognized that everyone is. She will be missed greatly.
She is survived by countless friends and a large and loving family, including her son Jeff (Jan); daughters Linda Downey and Katie Coleman (George); grandchildren Todd Cornell (Heather), Kelly Hazeldine (James), Evan Cornell (Suzie), Jacey Haskell, Casey Coleman, Bill Coleman, Kimmy Coleman Catt (Leland); great-grandchildren Tanner, Mason and Sara, Nicholas, Owen, Ayden, Kasch, Ailish and Mirren and nephew A. Dudley Johnson (Barry Schwartz).
Friends and family are invited to greet the family on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. in the LESKO & POLKE FUNERAL HOME, 1209 Post Road, Fairfield. A Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, November 4th at 10:00 a.m. in Saint Anthony Church, 149 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield, CT 06824. Interment will follow in Oaklawn Cemetery in Fairfield.
THE GREGORY F. DOYLE FUNERAL HOME, MILFORD is handling arrangements. To leave an online condolence, please visit,

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