Official Obituary of

María Inés Versage Agudelo

March 22, 1943 ~ February 15, 2024 (age 80) 80 Years Old

María Inés Versage Agudelo Obituary

Inés Versage, 80, of Ithaca, NY, passed away peacefully from complications related to multiple
myeloma on February 15th, 2024, at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY, surrounded
by her immediate family.
María Inés Agudelo Murillo de Versage was born March 22nd, 1943, in Pensilanvia, the
Department of Caldas, Colombia. She was the third of five children born to José Azarías
Agudelo Osorio, a former police officer and future politician, and Ana Emilia Murillo Ramírez
de Agudelo, a school teacher. Inés’s childhood was marked by the upheaval of La Violencia,
Colombia’s ten-year civil war between the country’s Liberal and Conservative parties, beginning
in 1948, just weeks after her 5th birthday. During the conflict, her father was pursued and
captured, then jailed as a political prisoner by Conservative forces. Once the family was reunited,
they settled in Pradera, in the Department of Valle del Cauca.
In her teen years, Inés earned a scholarship which allowed her to study at Colegio Fernández
Guerra, an all-girls boarding school in Santander de Quilichao, the Department of Cauca. For
her final year, she transferred to a high school in El Cerritos, the Department of Valle de Cauca,
graduating in 1960. Soon after graduation, she traveled to the Calima Hydroelectric Plant
construction site to teach Spanish to Canadian contractors.
In 1963, Inés met Dominic Versage, a Peace Corps volunteer from Penn Yan, NY, who was
stationed in Pradera. Dominic developed a close relationship with Inés’s family and began
courting her in late 1964. Early in 1965, Dominic proposed that they get married and that Inés
move with him to the United States after the completion of his Peace Corps service. She
accepted, taking the leap of faith that would define her life. Years later, Inés would reveal that
from an early age she had had a vision of leaving Colombia to travel far away.
The couple married in La Santa Iglesia Parroquiál de la Inmaculada Concepción in Pradera on
April 10th, 1965. The following month, Inés left her family in Colombia and emigrated to the
United States with her new husband. The newlyweds moved to Ithaca, where Dominic began his
career at Cornell University.
Upon arriving in Ithaca, Inés dedicated herself to managing and maintaining the household and
to being a mother to her three children. She took pleasure in opening her home to visitors and in
cooking for and feeding her family and friends. She was particularly proud of learning to adapt
her Colombian cuisine to ingredients available in Ithaca, which was especially difficult in the
mid-’60s. She was equally proud of learning to cook the Italian food Dominic grew up with.
As Inés assimilated to her new American life by taking English classes at night and becoming a
U.S. citizen in 1970, she also sought to forge connections to the international communities at
Cornell and in Ithaca in general. In 1966, she joined International Wives (now the Friendship
Group), a program of the Cornell Campus Club’s International Committee. Inés went on to
become a group leader and then chairperson of what by then had been renamed the International

Women’s Friendship Group. As chairperson, she pushed to increase awareness of, and
participation in, the group. Armed with a list of married students supplied by the International
Students Office, she would recruit door to door.
In the 1970s, Inés and Dominic became involved with the Campus Club’s International Students
Host Family program, helping foreign students navigate the culture shock of central New York
that Inés experienced when she first arrived. They initially hosted students from Colombia, Latin
America, and Europe, but soon began hosting students from Japan, which served to significantly
expand Inés and Dominic’s cultural horizons. In addition, they served as unofficial host family
and surrogate parents to several generations of newly arrived students and families for over 50
years. Inés and Dominic were instrumental in the founding of the Cornell Colombian Students
Association in the early 1980s, and Inés was central to the planning and organizing of events into
the 2010s. Her involvement with all of these groups led to friendships with people from all
corners of the globe that have endured to this day.
In the 1980s, Inés began teaching Spanish in the Belle Sherman Elementary School afterschool
program. The program proved to be so successful that, at the urging of parents, she began
offering private Spanish classes for students who wanted to continue learning the language after
they finished the program. This developed into a career as a Spanish tutor. She found great
satisfaction in teaching and guiding learners of all ages through exposure to her native language
and culture. She also demonstrated great teaching ability, emerging as a trusted referral from the
Ithaca High School Foreign Language Department. She formed long lasting relationships with
her former students and their families, and she continued tutoring until a few months before her
Inés’s personality was characterized by an unflagging determination. She refused to believe that
there was anything she was incapable of and would pointedly resolve to prove naysayers wrong.
Even her outgoing, friendly, and welcoming disposition was the result of her concerted effort to
become so after moving to the U.S. At the same time, she possessed a mischievous streak, which
she honed into an ability to get away with things due to her small stature and warm smile. This
included once taking a twenty-pound frozen turkey through airport security in her carry-on
luggage on a flight to Colombia, all so that she could cook an American Thanksgiving meal for
her family.
Flowers were a well-known passion of Inés’s. She took immense pride in her flower gardens and
the diligent work she put into cultivating them. She delighted in filling her home with flowers
and the powerful energy of their bright colors.
Another passion of Inés’s was travel. She and Dominic used his professional conferences as an
opportunity for family visits to many locations throughout the United States. She frequently took
trips to reconnect with family in Colombia and, more recently, to visit her granddaughters in Los
Angeles. Dominic’s retirement from Cornell in 2006 afforded time for more ambitious travel.

They were able to fulfill long-held aspirations to take extended vacations to Brazil, Europe, and
East Asia, all facilitated by the friendships they had made over the years. In 2016, Inés made her
final trip to Colombia with Dominic to belatedly celebrate their 50 th anniversary, visiting family
and friends in various regions of the country.
In June 2022, Inés was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. For
close to two years, she bravely faced this challenge with her usual tenacity and optimism, as well
as a surprising amount of humor. After a lifetime dedicated to serving others, she was getting
used to the idea of prioritizing her own health and energy. Even so, she maintained an active
social calendar. In her last month, she met with families from the Latino community, host
students, yoga class friends, neighbors, and the International Women’s Group, not to mention
communicating with international friends through social media.
Inés was preceded in death by her parents José Azarías Agudelo Osorio and Ana Emilia Murillo
Ramírez de Agudelo and sister Mary Agudelo de Hernández.
She is survived by her husband of 59 years Dominic Versage; their children Cristina Versage,
Ramón Versage, and Andrés [Rosa Figueroa-Versage] Versage; granddaughters Isabella Versage
and Elena Versage; brothers Wilmer [Gloria] Agudelo, Jair Agudelo; sister Dignora de Jesus
[Arturo] Agudelo de Mejía; and sisters-in-law Dorothy [William] Dinehart, Rosemary [Thomas]
Sisson, and Anne (Robert) Allerton.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Ithaca on Saturday, March 9th,
2024, at 11 a.m. All are welcome. In addition, friends and family are invited to attend a
celebration of Inés’ life on Sunday, March 24th, 2024, at 2:00 pm in the St. Catherine Parish Hall
with a reception to follow.
St. Catherine is located at 309 Siena Drive in Ithaca, NY.
Inés’s wish was to not receive flowers in death, noting that she would enjoy them more while she
was alive. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, a donation toward sponsoring a public beautification
project in Inés’s name can be made by mailing a check to:
Community Beautification
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County
615 Willow Ave
Ithaca, NY 14850-3555
payable to “CCE TC” including “Beautification Fund for Inés Versage” in the memo line.
Alternatively, the family invites you to purchase flowers for yourself in remembrance of Inés.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of María Inés Versage Agudelo, please visit our floral store.

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Funeral Mass
March 9, 2024

11:00 AM
St. Catherine of Sienna Church (Ithaca)

Celebration of Life
March 24, 2024

2:00 PM
St. Catherine Parish Hall


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