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Candace Widmer, 62, a woman of enormous intellectual curiosity and personal integrity, died on November 23, 2005 at her home with her family in Ithaca, New York. Just as she had done prior to her cancer diagnosis seven years ago, she approached the significant challenges her illness presented with the same open heart and adventurous spirit she brought to the rest of her life.

She is survived by her partner of 25 years, Sue Robinson; her children, Abigail, Marc, and Matthew (Amy Phelps); her granddaughters, Brooke and Katelyn; and a large group of loving and devoted friends who, along with her family, shared both the pleasures and sorrows of her life, many of whom helped care for her during her final months. She is also survived by her mother, Jane Armstrong Hestwood; her brother, Thomas Hestwood (Therese Jezioro); her sister, Meryl Streeter (John); and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her father, John Clifford Hestwood.

Often using the middle initial X – claimed as a child when she was told that she hadn’t been given a middle name because it would make things simpler when she married – Candace X. Widmer continued to create her life with imagination and gusto. She left the small town in Pennsylvania where she grew up, attended Gettsyburg College (B.A., Biology), Temple University (M.A., Developmental Biology), and the University of Wisconsin (doctoral studies in genetics), and worked at a variety of jobs: waitress, histologist, teratologist, autopsy assistant, lecturer in cell biology at Mansfield State Universitry, and lecturer in ethical issues in biomedicine at Temple. After moving to Ithaca with her then-husband, three toddlers, and several friends, Swamp Hill Farm was born. Here, her joy in learning new things found expression in renovating an old farmhouse, caring for livestock, cultivating a large vegetable garden, and, in general, helping to nurture an extended cooperative family living close to the land. Friends dropped in and were encouraged to stay—for a week, several months, or many years—to help work on whatever needed doing. Over the years, the annual wood party became a tradition.

A Ph.D. from Cornell University in organizational behavior with an emphasis on human services and public policy came next, followed by more than twenty years of teaching at Elmira College and professional consulting. Candace occasionally joked that teaching was her “paid political work.” To that end, she wanted to accomplish two things with her students: help them make good choices by understanding the alternatives and their probable outcomes, and encourage them to be more curious. Her courses never shied away from controversy, at the same time that she insisted on tolerance for unpopular views. She helped lead the fight for a college nondiscrimination policy, including a sexual orientation clause, and was greatly responsible for the unanimous vote of the faculty in 1993. The Women’s Studies Program owes its existence to her vision and determination.

Candace’s work as an evaluator and consultant to nonprofit boards aided organizations both locally and nationally. She urged boards to recognize that conflict was not in itself a bad thing; rather, what was important was learning how to resolve conflicts, how to grow together toward important ends, and how to nurture the ability to change. Organizations including the Lilly Endowment, Kellogg Foundation, AARP, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and Girls, Inc. benefited from her insight. The national office of Planned Parenthood adopted the diversity manual she co-wrote. A colleague at Girls, Inc., Susan Houchin, later collaborated with her on a book for members of nonprofit boards, The Art of Trusteeship: The Nonprofit Board Member’s Guide to Effective Governance, published in 2000. She was a senior fellow at the Cheswick Foundation, a nationally recognized nonprofit consortium of consultants and negotiators, as well as a member of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. She leaves behind a long list of published articles about nonprofit board and organizational behavior.

Candace was an activist throughout her 30 years in Ithaca. Working to make the school system responsive to the needs of African-American children, and co-founding both the Ithaca Cancer Network (ICaN) and the Tompkins County Working Group on Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender Aging, are just several of the ways in which her steadiness and strategic planning capabilities were put to use.

Candace appreciated beauty in its many forms and was equally content backpacking and canoeing as she was reading and listening to Bach. She continued to travel when she was able, even after her cancer diagnosis, going as far afield as Japan and Singapore, as close to home as the Adirondacks. One of her greatest joys was making real connections with other people. She felt that her cancer enabled her to be more open and present to others, that even in the process of dying, she was growing. Candace often expressed gratitude to the people who accompanied her on her journey. She wanted them to know how much she loved them, how she appreciated the joy they added to her life, the help they gave her. Her immediate family and relatives, her wide circle of valued friends extending back to junior high school, the more than 30 members of her Share the Care group, and her biweekly Living and Dying cancer support group, will all miss her enormously.

Contributions honoring Candace’s life can be made to the Community Dispute and Resolution Center, Hospicare and Palliative Care Services, or Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes.

A memorial service was held at The Womens Community Building, Ithaca, New York.

Funeral arrangements were under the direcion of The Lansing Funeral Home, Inc., 32 Auburn Road, Lansing, NY. 533.8600

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