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A man of many talents

Published 10:36am Friday, October 11, 2013

MERLE MONAHAN
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
merlemonah@aol.com

FRANKLIN—Ronald “Ron” Cornwell has many talents that he enjoys and, in fact, has spent a lot of time practicing.

Ronald Cornwell -- MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS
Ronald Cornwell — MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS

He is a musician, an interior decorator and gardener. Cornwell also is extremely civic-minded, having at one time or another been a member of the local Masonic Lodge, the Ivor Ruritan Club, Southampton Fair Board, Millfield Baptist Deacon Board and several other groups.

“This is all good,” he said, “but not if you neglect your family. I can tell you that a commitment to one’s family is one of the most important relationships anyone could have.

“I found that out all of a sudden one night when I was getting ready to go to a meeting and realized I was so involved in outside activities that I rarely saw my children,” Cornwell continued.

“I immediately resigned from most of the organizations I belonged to and started paying attention to my family. I was there to help my kids with homework, to take them fishing and ball games and above all, to take them to church.

“The children were thrilled,” he admitted. “Needless to say, my wife, Nancy, was happy too.”

Cornwell and his wife have raised a son, Chris, and a daughter, Ashley. Their oldest son, Matthew, died from meningitis when he was only six.

“I treasure every minute I’ve spent with them,” Cornwell said, “especially Matt. I had such little time with him.”

Until three years ago, the family lived near Berlin, but in 2010, after his wife died, Cornwell moved to Franklin where he lives today.

He purchased the home of Franklin’s first mayor, Dr. James Fenton Bryant, built in the late 1800s, and has already remodeled the first floor of the home. Said to be the fourth-oldest home still standing in Franklin, he has brought the interior back to the way it probably was when it was built.

Cornwell said he loves the stately old house, which is right across the street from the Franklin Baptist Church.

He added that his house was recently featured on a Franklin Garden Club tour and highlighted in Western Tidewater Living Magazine.

Born and raised on a farm near Berlin, Cornwell attended the county schools, where one of his subjects was playing piano and eventually the organ.

“I was about 11 when I started,” he said, “and I really liked it. I took lessons right on through school.

“I am currently the organist at Millfield Baptist Church,” Cornwell added, “where I have been for about 28 years.”

From high school, Cornwell attended and graduated from the University of Richmond in 1972 with degrees in both history and psychology.

He worked in the psychiatric unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Richmond after college, but soon took a job as a counselor at the Southampton Correctional Center. After six years there, he tried farming with his dad for the next five years.

“Farming didn’t work out so well, so I went back to the Correctional Center for the next six years. I retired from there in 2006,” he said.

The devoted grandfather of three boys, Cornwell, 63, now works as a real estate agent and spends as much time with his grandsons as possible.

“They grow up so fast, I don’t want to miss not even a little time with them,” he said with a smile.

Aside from his hours at the organ in church, he is involved in very few outside activities. He does sing in the community chorus at Franklin Baptist, serves on the Chamber of Commerce board and is a member of the YMCA, but little else, he said.

“Life is good,” he added, “and I want to enjoy it. Despite all the hardships, it is worth living.”

NAME: Ronald “Ron” Cornwell.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: I was born and raised here.

HOMETOWN: Berlin.

OCCUPATION: Retired from State of Virginia in 2006 and currently work as an agent for Re Max Realty.

MARITAL STATUS: Single.

CHILDREN, AGES AND SCHOOLS: I always say we have three, Matthew Cornwell, who died in 1982 when he was six; Chris Cornwell, 33; and Ashley Langley, 32. Chris and Ashley have completed their educations, married and have their own families.

FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: Any activity with my family.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Applebee’s.

FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Steak and diet coke.

WHAT DO PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I like to cook.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOU: I have a great sense of humor.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: Over eating.

PETS: I have a rescue dog named Penny.

FAVORITE HOBBIES: Playing piano and gardening.

PET PEEVE: People who don’t take responsibility for themselves.

FIRST JOB: Cleaning the concrete floors in the hog pens for my dad on the farm.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As one with a positive attitude who likes to bring a little fun into the world.

IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: I am provoked with all branches of our federal government, so I would talk on that subject. I don’t understand why our elected officials do not do their jobs and run the country as they are supposed to. They are making it weaker, and it has always been one of the strongest nations in the world. It is a sad situation.

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