Human Interest

It’s unusual to find someone as charitable as John Cornelius. When you take into account the fact of his age — 96 — finding someone who compares becomes nearly impossible.

Ten years ago, the World War II veteran began making calls to local businesses, asking for items that he might raffle to benefit veterans.

That first year, Cornelius raised nearly $7,000 for the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System including, Cornelius likes to note, $500 from retired U.S. Sen. Bob Dole [R-Kan.].

Dole, in fact, was the one to inspire Cornelius to take up the role of fundraising mastermind in his mid-80s, saying to Cornelius, “Why don’t you do a raffle?”

Ten years later, and Cornelius has logged innumerable hours talking on the phone, writing letters — over 100 to local companies each year, soliciting items for raffle — and standing in front of stores with one goal in mind: To alleviate the suffering of his fellow veterans.

To say that Cornelius has been successful in his efforts is an understatement. This year, he has raised over $17,500, bringing his 10-year total over the $180,000 mark.

“Hopefully, next year we’ll make it over $200,000,” Cornelius said.

On Pearl Harbor Day, Monday, Dec. 7, Cornelius met with his crew, composed of veterans, at Weber’s IGA in the Village of Oak Creek to announce yet another year’s batch of raffle prizes.

The choice of location is not coincidental, for Cornelius and Weber’s owner Jake Weber have a long-standing friendship. On Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day, Weber gives Cornelius space in the store to sell raffle tickets.

“He says to me, ‘That’s yours, John,’” Cornelius said, adding that Weber goes so far as to take him to the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System himself. “Jake Weber’s one of the greatest citizens who’s ever lived. He just gives and gives and gives.”

The regard is returned, in full.

“It’s a special honor to stand with our veterans and their families: John, Peg, Mike, Tommy, Vaughn, Ed, Johnson and so many other’s on John’s team — America’s team,” Weber said. “John has quoted so many times, ‘I’m proud to be an American,’ so to be able to help our men and women that have stepped up to serve this country is inspiring. We can help from the heart with our support, with our sincere attention to the chapter our veterans have given for all of us.

“Stronger together, together forever: Thank you, John.”

For Cornelius — who recalls vividly the first time he visited the VA hospital in Prescott, prompting unbidden tears — the battle on behalf of veterans is never ending, an obligation to help he gladly accepts.

“The soldier who’s injured in combat is a true brave man,” Cornelius said.

Veterans Affairs Events

Town Hall
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 11 a.m. to noon
Holiday Party
Thursday, Dec. 17, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Health Fair
Saturday, Jan. 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Northern Arizona VA Health Care System, 500 N. SR 89, Prescott
445-4860 or (800) 949-1005


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