top of page
Hanging Ornaments

Rosemary's Christmas Letter 2023

2023 has been a rollercoaster year for the Avery, Heller, and Key families, filled with joyous highs and challenging lows.


The year started off with great anticipation of the arrival of baby Key in January. None of us knew the gender of the new bundle of joy until she arrived on January 23. Uma Gage Key joined our world peacefully, with mom and dad surviving the ordeal with grace and much joy. We have spent the year watching her develop from a sleepy baby in arms to an active 11-month-old who charms us all with her giggles and smiles. The greatest gift to her parents? She loves to sleep, and sleeps well! What more could new parents ask for? Welcome to our family baby Uma, the world is a better place because you are in it. 

Anchor 1

After the roller coaster high of baby Uma’s arrival, we have been on a very tough journey with our beloved Mandy. In August 2022, Mandy was diagnosed with a metastatic breast cancer tumor on her brain. The only symptoms that alerted us to the tumor was the loss of right leg foot functionality, which she experienced during a vacation in her “happy place,” on the island of Nantucket. This tumor was surgically removed as it was near the surface on the Dura of the brain. We were so optimistic that this tumor had been caught early. Our optimism was rapidly dispelled when, just a few months later, three more tumors were detected in her brain. Fortunately, these tumors were also able to be surgically removed, and internally radiated with Brachy therapy. Again, we were so optimistic until a fifth large brain tumor was detected earlier this year, which was not amenable to surgical removal.


All through 2023 we have been surrounding Mandy with love and support as she goes through arduous radiation therapies and never-ending chemotherapy sessions. She has had to endure hours of treatment, tiredness, and exhaustion, and loss of all her body hair. It amazes me to see how well she wears her wigs and how beautiful she looks every day. If one did not know what she has been going through, it would be hard for you to tell that anything is wrong with her, except for her continued limp in the right leg. It is hard for me to express my admiration for my daughter going through this challenging ordeal. She has been so brave, so strong, never moans about anything, and she is fighting this disease with every inch of her strength and determination. She is, and will always be, my hero. 


Fortunately, in June and August, we were all able to enjoy a reprieve from our worries. In June this year I joined my rafting group for yet another amazing trip down the Grand Canyon. We did the lower Grand Canyon this time, seven days on this magnificent river with fellow rafters who have all become family members to me over the years. The Grand Canyon is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. Incised by the Colorado River, the canyon is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 18 miles at its widest. I have met so many people who report they have been to the Grand Canyon, and upon asking further, find that they have only visited the rim or done the hike from rim to rim.  The truth is, however, that, unless you have enjoyed the journey down the Colorado river, and seen all aspects of the canyon, you have not truly fallen in love with this Wonder of the World yet. It is simply an awesome experience not to be missed. For those of you looking for a remote getaway with amazing vistas, challenging side hikes, and survival challenges, this is the place for you. I hope you enjoy my poor attempt at visually capturing the beauty of this canyon. 


In late July Mandy and I made the trip down to Delaware to accompany Alexa as she participated in a national lacrosse tournament. Both granddaughters, Alexa and Jessie, are dedicated lacrosse players, and have done very well statewide and nationally. Alexa is looking ahead to college in a couple of years and would like to be recruited by a Division I team to play lacrosse in college. Jessie seems to be on a similar trajectory.  What a joy it is been throughout the years to watch these fine young women develop their skills and teamwork. They are both growing up so fast. In fact, Alexa started driving in November and promises to be a very confident and responsible driver on the roads. Young Buster, who is turning 13 this December, is also a dedicated athlete. He plays basketball, football, and baseball. Mandy and Ben have their time cut out for them with shuttling the kids back and forth from practices and games.


In early August, the family made their way to the island of Nantucket for a magical three-week vacation. I was able to be with them for the first week but had to return to campus for the start of school. After I left, Mandy’s and David’s half-sisters arrived from Ireland and London, with their spouses and babies. I don’t know when I have seen Mandy as happy as having this large family group around her for a week. They spent time on the beach, time hanging out together, and many meals were enjoyed at the magnificent local restaurants.


In June 2024 I will have completed my six years as House Professor and Dean in Flora Rose House here on West Campus. This will be a very difficult transition for me as I have so enjoyed my time here with this amazing staff and students in the residence hall. I was unable to teach in the fall semester 2022 as I spent a lot of time with Mandy during her treatments. However, both in spring semester and fall semester this year I have taught my large introductory class, and some other smaller classes, and have delighted in every minute of my time. The students are simply amazing and bring such joy to my life. 


In addition to my teaching and research teams with whom I work very closely with during the year, I was blessed with return to campus of several of my “Avery” alumni. It was simply wonderful seeing Elizabeth Brewster at a wedding of one of my students down in New York City. Debbie Grisham visited campus with her niece Kyle on a recruiting visit, and it was very special to see the old and new generations of Cornellians. It was truly special to spend time with Gogi Gupta and his family in their new house on Nantucket during the summer. Then, in mid-October Scott Lerner and his family were in Ithaca for a college tour.  One special event I celebrate this year was the graduation of one of my special alumni, Carly Silver, as she graduated from Harvard Business School. Congrats Carly and mom Wendy, what an accomplishment!  To all my students, past, present, and soon to be graduating, I thank you all for the joy you bring to my life.


The Avery, Heller, and Key families celebrated Thanksgiving together this year in Nantucket. As I look back on all the events of the year, despite the trials and heartbreak of health events, it was indeed filled with blessings and wonderful memories. See what you think!

To all of you who have touched my life this year, for those of you, who have been praying for us from afar, for those who have been wonderful supports in so many aspects of our lives this year, I thank you, love you, and hold you dear to my heart.


Exhibit 2.png

© 2023 Rosemary Avery

bottom of page