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1939 Melinda 2023

Melinda Vail Killenberg

June 20, 1939 — June 18, 2023

Melinda Townsend Vail Killenberg died on Sunday June 18, 2023. Melinda was born to Marion and Arthur Hubert Vail, Jr. in Mt. Kisco, New York on June 20, 1939. She graduated from Putney School in Putney, Vermont and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. She was employed as a social worker in New York City, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Durham, North Carolina in 1972. Melinda was raised beside Peach Lake in North Salem, New York, surrounded by her beloved Holstein cows. Melinda learned to fish on Peach Lake and shared that life-long interest with her husband and family. On vacations to Emerald Isle, NC, she could be found surfcasting for Pompano in the early morning, alongside her children and grandchildren.


She also played golf regularly, a sport she enjoyed with her friends and her sons. Melinda was a genuine sports fan, passionate about golf, tennis, the Boston Red Sox and, especially, Duke Men’s Basketball. Watching sports with Melinda was a delight for her friends and family, as she cheered with unrivaled excitement, rooting for her teams and players with every ounce of her energy. Melinda was a member of three bridge clubs, and regularly played with friends and family, having taught the game to her children and grandchildren. She was an avid reader and enjoyed daily crossword puzzles. Her appetite for fun was unparalleled.


Melinda believed in hand-written notes and regular phone calls and had a unique capacity for keeping track of and genuinely caring about an enormous amount of people. She was the center point of a broad extended family. She believed that any job worth doing was worth doing well, and she meticulously lived up to this belief whether she was organizing an event or decorating a Christmas tree. She was an active volunteer with the League of Women Voters, Durham Congregations in Action, Meals-on-Wheels, Women in Action and Friends of the Library in Durham. She was committed to her community and gave her time freely to support equality and social justice endeavors in Durham.


She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul Gustav Killenberg MD. She is survived by her son, Christopher and his wife, Susan; son, Timothy and his wife, Dawn; her daughter, Jennifer and her husband Graham; grandchildren Samuel, Eva, Jordan, Parker, Gordon and Mason; her sister-in-law Doris Wohlfort and her husband, Robert Wohlfort. A brother, David Howe Vail and sister, Nancy Vail Wilson also pre-deceased her.


A memorial service will be held at Pilgrim United Church of Christ on Saturday June 24th at 2 p.m., with the Reverend Melinda Keenan Wood presiding. Friends may visit with the family at a reception in the church following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Melinda’s name to Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 3011 Academy Road, Durham, North Carolina, 27707 or Housing for New Hope, 18 West Colony Place, Durham, North Carolina 27705.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Melinda Vail Killenberg, please visit our flower store.

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