Cynthia McFarland, archivist for Episcopal diocese

Cynthia W. McFarland
Cynthia W. McFarland
Posted: February 21, 2014

The way in which Cynthia Wilson McFarland responded to a childhood trauma defined her character, a family friend said.

"When she was seven and her sister was two, they were flying home from a visit to Arizona and they were in a plane crash," Brian Reid said in a phone interview.

"Although both survived, it was traumatic," Reid, her estate executor, said. "She had a profound fear of airplanes."

So, he said, "she decided she wanted to do something about this fear," dropped out of college for a year and worked as a flight attendant on East Coast flights for the former Eastern Airlines.

On Thursday, Feb. 13, Mrs. McFarland, 61, of Burlington City, communications director and archivist for the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey from 2004 to 2013, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.

Since 2008, she also was managing editor of Anglicans Online, which Reid, one of its editors, said is "a 20-year-old magazine of church doings."

"She had always been drawn to church work," Reid said. "She thought of becoming a nun before heading off to college."

Born in Arlington, Va., she earned a bachelor's magna cum laude in Latin and Greek at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., in 1976, the year she turned 24.

Her own plane crash wasn't the only one to traumatize her, Reid said.

"Her father was one of . . . twins. Her mother married the first twin. He died in a plane crash, so she married the second twin, and that was Cynthia's father," Reid said.

After Wells, Mrs. McFarland studied toward a doctorate in classics at the University of Virginia on a full scholarship but, after completing the course work, she left for personal reasons.

She returned to upstate New York in 1980, to work in the public relations department at Cornell University, married in 1981, and became manager of the Cornell communications group.

In 1986, Reid said, she opened her own firm, Cynthia McFarland and Associates near Ithaca, which helped publicize universities.

The firm produced "brochures to try to attract students" and, after the Internet dawned, he said, "they shifted focus to producing websites for universities," such as the University of Oregon and the University of Indiana at Bloomington.

In 2004, Reid said, "she felt a compulsion to move to New Jersey," because she had been working on a biography of George Washington Doane, the second Episcopal bishop of New Jersey.

The work is about 80 percent completed, he said.

"She moved to Burlington City, and the house she bought is across the street from the cemetery where that bishop is - the churchyard of St. Mary's Church."

At the same time, she began her communications and archives work with the Episcopal Diocese, commuting a few days a week to its offices in Trenton.

Mrs. McFarland was a trustee of the Doane Academy, whose website she produced, a pre-K-12 school in Burlington founded by the bishop in 1837.

"She loved it, worked hard for it," Reid said, "and is leaving a good bit of her estate to it."

Mrs. McFarland is survived by her mother, Lorraine Wilson, two brothers, and a sister. Her husband, Frederic, died in 2008.

A viewing was set from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at the Page Funeral Home, 302 E. Union St., Burlington, N.J. 08016.

A choral Funeral Mass was set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 1625 Locust St., Philadelphia. A graveside committal service was set for 3 p.m. that day at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 145 W. Broad St., Burlington City.

Donations may be sent to the Doane Academy, 350 Riverbank, Burlington, N.J. 08016 or at www.doaneacademy.org.

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.pagefuneralhome.com.

wnaedele@phillynews.com

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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