AVIS DE DÉCÈS
Cara Belle Leilani Dalton West
16 août 1944 – 12 octobre 2020
Cara Belle Leilani Dalton West passed away at her home in Austin, Texas on Monday, October 12, 2020 at the age of 76. She was born on August 16, 1944, in San Diego, California, the youngest of four children to Lowell Dalton and Margaret (Mimi) Aynesworth Dalton. No description of Leilani is complete without the story of her name. ‘Cara’ honors the woman who helped her father, as a young man, to find his way. ‘Belle’ was the nurse who lived next door, went with Mimi to the hospital, and ultimately performed the delivery in the car right in front of the Railroad Express Office! ‘Leilani’ was the name her father gave her. He was a Marine officer stationed in Hawaii who unfortunately died five months prior to her birth. ‘Dalton’ was her maiden name and ‘West’ her married name. She had a big name and a big personality to match!
Though born in California, she considered herself a native Texan. Most of her childhood was spent in Waco, Texas where several other related families also lived. She, her siblings and the cousins did everything together. Benefiting from the freedom of a smaller town they had Saturdays at the movie theatre, played together into the evenings, and had many adventures. As adults, Leilani and the whole group of cousins, would regale extended family gatherings with tales of their escapades, re-arguing childhood disputes, giving very diverse perspectives on the same events and generally sending everyone into gales of laughter.
The family moved to Port Neches, Texas when she was a young teen. There she attended Port Neches High School, where her mother was an English teacher. Leilani was active in many extracurricular activities and graduated magna cum laude in 1962. She went on to earn a BA in English from Lamar University and a Masters in Social Work from UT Austin in 1974. In 1965, she married George Marc West and had two sons, Blake and Jeremy. When the boys were young, the family enjoyed weeks-long summer road trips across America. She and Marc eventually divorced in 1987, but neither remarried and they remained amicable. Leilani cared for Marc when he went into treatment for cancer until he passed away in 2008.
Later in life, she joined the menage of her sister, Barbara, and her brother-in-law, Jim, with whom her mother, Mimi, was already living. Barbara and Jim were there when she really needed them. Leilani was present when her mother became critically ill and eventually died. And it was good to be a part of a household in which there was never a dull moment!
At both early and later stages of her life, Leilani worked in the field of social work, but she was a storyteller and an author first and foremost. She wrote Harlequin Superromances under the pen name Cara West. Her books featured familiar Austin or Texas themes and settings. Research on her own trail blazing pioneer ancestors provided background on her fourth book, Thy Heart in Mine. Pets were important to her throughout her life. Her special love of dogs prompted her to have a dog trainer as the heroine of her third book, Jenny Kissed Me.
It took perseverance and hard work to complete and publish books, but she also understood writing was a team activity. She dedicated each book to a different family member or friend particularly special to its writing, and always acknowledged the team that worked with her. Her books were translated into many languages, and she received the ‘Best Superromance’ honor from Romantic Times in 1991 for Thy Heart in Mine.
The body of her work in chronological order: Now There’s Tomorrow 1987, There is a Season 1988, Jenny Kissed Me 1990, Thy Heart in Mine 1991, Lone Star Drifter 1992, Guitars Cadillacs 1993, Can’t Forget Him 1996.
She supplemented her writing career income by working as an Austin tour guide, travel agent, and at Austin Groups for the Elderly. She loved the mountains of the American West and spent several summers working in a gift shop in Grand Tetons National Park. She recently shared a story about a time she met and sold t-shirts to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of her idols. Her last job before retiring was with the Adult Protective Services Hotline.
Travel had been fundamental to her life since birth, and she loved traveling with her family and throughout her life. She not only went to places in the United States but to Greece, Turkey, Italy and three times to her beloved England. These big trips motivated her to stay in shape and study the Italian language.
Most important to her was being ‘Grandmama’ to grandson Luke. Over his first few years, she created for him on an iPod a massive, catalogued, and cross catalogued volume of classical music. When he was young, they especially loved listening to music, reading, and building puzzles together. As he got older, they watched movies, played games and discussed politics.
She was enthusiastically knowledgeable about musicals, old movies, classical music and the English language, among many other subjects. She had a vast collection of DVDs and CDs, as well as a library of reference books.
As a member of St. Matthews Episcopal Church of Austin since 2014, she enjoyed fellowship and serving on the Good Faith Committee. She spent the past year and a half battling, and overcoming breast cancer, dealing with other health issues, as well as coping with the losses of beloved family members. Caring deeply about social justice, she was eager to vote in the upcoming election, looking forward to better days. She is preceded in death by her parents, her sister and brother-n-law, Barbara & Jim Williams and her brother, George Dalton. She is survived by her son, Blake West, wife Alyssa, and grandson Luke West; son, Jeremy West and partner Hanh Pham; brother, Lowell Dalton and his wife, Joye; sister-in-law, Louise Dalton; “best friend” dog Baxter; and many dear nieces, nephews, and lifelong friends.
Leilani was a unique personality who rarely followed convention and always proudly did it her way. She would want us to remember her by telling stories and laughing long, fondly and merrily.
The last words in Leilani’s will were “I love you all and intend to rest in peace.”
Due to COVID 19, no public memorial will be held. Leilani’s ashes will be interred at a private service at St. Matthews Episcopal Church Memorial Garden in Austin Texas. Her family would love to make a keepsake compilation of memories and stories about Leilani. Please mail or email any memories directly to Blake or post them on the Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Homes memorial page.
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Cara Belle Leilani Dalton West
12 novembre , 2020
I was in the Writers Group with Cara in the late 80's, early 90's and we had meetings at each others homes. Sara Bird and Susan Combs were part of our group. We were so excited when Cara sold her manuscripts and they were printed.
I had lost track of her for many years. She was a wonderful person. I was sorry to see her Obit in the paper. The family may need some Grief Counseling sessions. That may help. Love to all of you.
11 novembre , 2020
What a sweet wonderful lady! I was her insurance agent for many years and always enjoyed visiting with her over the phone. She will be missed.
9 novembre , 2020
I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to write. When I think of Leilani, what always comes to mind is her sense of humor. I’ll never forget the memorial speech she made when Aunt Margaret passed away, so poignant, yet enlivened by statements so funny you had to laugh. And when Leilani laughed, as she loved to do, it came up from her belly and out of her mouth so uninhibited and distinctive, a laugh like no other. She was such a great storyteller, with her amazing memory and way with words. At the big, boisterous gatherings at the house, she was in her element, snd I feel so fortunate to have witnessed her when she held the floor. My deepest condolences to you in her immediate family. Leilani was a free spirit, and we will all miss her.
5 novembre , 2020
I first met Leilani over 40 years ago when we were attending a “Mothers Camp” at Rocky River Ranch in Wimberley, Texas. We remained friends for many years because of that chance meeting. Leilani was an amazing woman and will be missed by many.