Jeanne L. Bates Frankel Cook de Corrales led an adventuresome life of travel and service to the Baha’i Faith that included being honored as a Knight of Baha’u’llah in 1957, when she and her mother planted the seeds of Baha’i community in the Nicobar Islands, one of the world’s remotest territories.
An author of several books who at various times was a nurse, a diplomat and a performer, Jeanne passed away May 1, 2012, at age 81. She resided most recently in Orange County, Florida.
A message of tribute from the National Spiritual Assembly reads in part, “[W]e especially appreciate the outstanding services Jeanne rendered to the world of humanity, in numerous countries, including the Nicobar Islands — where she and her mother Margaret were the first to share Baha’u’llah’s message — and other lands such as Costa Rica, Spain, and Malaysia.”
Jeanne was born in 1930 in Akron, Ohio. Her father was an international business consultant, so travel was in her blood — as was performing, thanks to her mother. As a young woman Jeanne was an artistic dancer and actor in California and New York. She and her mother, Margaret Kelly Bates, began traveling the world after the passing of Jeanne’s father.
In 1955 Jeanne heard of the Baha’i Faith and its world-embracing teachings while on a ship to Rotterdam, Netherlands. She eagerly embraced the Faith after contacting Baha’is on the mainland.
Looking to move where she was needed to serve her newly adopted Cause, she moved with her mother to Nice, on the southeastern coast of France. The community grew quickly, and Margaret Bates became one of the new adherents.
Mother and daughter sought the advice of Shoghi Effendi, then the head of the Faith, on where to go next. He steered them to the Nicobar Islands, a territory of India west of the Malay Peninsula, and one of the few remaining territories where the Bahá’í Faith had not been introduced.
Both Jeanne and her mother kept copious diaries of their travels, and their record gave life to Forget-Me-Not Nicobar. That 1992 book details how they prepared resourcefully, endured grueling travel and illness, faced down bureaucratic resistance, and plausibly encountered miracles in efforts to reach the Nicobars — along with their heroic little dog Muñeca.
The book’s epilogue notes with pleasure that even though they resided on the islands for only two months, their few contacts contributed to the beginnings of a Baha’i community that helped the Andaman and Nicobar Islands achieve a National Spiritual Assembly in 1984.
From there, Jeanne and her mother moved to Penang, Malaysia, where they were able to assist the development of the national Baha’i community for more than a year. Further travels took them to Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
Then in 1959 they were asked to move to another Indian Ocean archipelago, the Cocos-Keeling Islands, to revive its Baha’i community. Jeanne stayed about a year, and also traveled to support Baha’i activities in Australia.
On her return to the United States, she established a home base in Stamford, Connecticut. She frequently traveled across the United States as a Baha’i teacher, often with her mother.
They moved to Spain in 1965 for a little more than two years, then moved back near Stamford. At the invitation of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, she spent six more months in that country in 1968.
In the early 1970s Jeanne joined her mother in Escazú, Costa Rica, where Jeanne met and married Arnulfo Corrales, an attorney. She gained a position in the Costa Rican diplomatic corps, and the couple established the country’s consulate in Orlando, Florida, in 1976. In that capacity she developed travel services for the benefit of Latin American visitors.
Jeanne de Corrales is survived by her husband and his relatives.
Information from the Office of International Pioneering, back issues of The American Baha’i, Forget-Me-Not Nicobar, the Victoria (Texas) Advocate and Tributes.com