Human Interest


His house looks as if he?s a professional game show contestant — it?s packed to the hilt with prizes.

By Ella Garrett
Larson Newspapers

His house looks as if he?s a professional game show contestant — it?s packed to the hilt with prizes.

Envelopes from Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus spill autographed books and hats onto the bed.

Gift certificates for greens fees, dinners and train rides mix into the pile. Outside, two shiny new grills sit waiting for a winter barbecue.

Village of Oak Creek resident John Cornelius got all of these items for free, and he?s enjoying this plethora of prizes immensely. But they aren?t his.

These prizes are meant for bigger things.

Cornelius has amassed this collection, valued at more than $7,600, for his Disabled Veterans Raffle to be held Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Oakcreek Country Club clubhouse.

Cornelius, 88, is a veteran himself.

He was a rifle platoon leader in Italy during World War II. He spent 17 months there in 1944 and 1945.

One of his jobs was to disarm Nazi soldiers after the German surrender.

?They were cocky, arrogant,? he said.

Cornelius is also a patient at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott.

During his visits to pick up medicine or see a doctor, he met some of the patients who reside at the hospital, and his heart went out to them.

?I saw all these fellows, gals too, that never get out of bed. It?s an awful scene,? he said. ?I thought I should do something.?

So he wrote letters — to local restaurants, resorts and even to the owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, asking for donations to be raffled off to support these disabled veterans.

Every person he wrote to responded with a donation.

?People are so generous,? Cornelius said. ?You see people on the news that are mean, awful. But that?s small compared to the good people in the world.?

Frank Cimorelli, public affairs director at the VA hospital, is working the hospital?s side of the raffle — the receiving side.

The VA hospital provides generally-free medical care to veterans of the U.S. armed forces. The money brought in from the

raffle will not be used for medical care, though.

One-hundred percent of the funds will go to providing patients with small

comforts, which are especially important to those spending their holidays in a

hospital bed.

These comforts include fresh flowers in patient rooms once a week, sweatshirts, fruit baskets, holiday parties and welcome kits that include items like shaving cream and toiletries.

In a regular hospital, patients would be billed for these items.

But veterans deserve extra comforts. They have already paid in other ways.

?The price of freedom is visible here,? Cimorelli said. ?Some of the debilitating conditions you see here were done serving our country, protecting our freedom.?

Weber?s IGA in the Village of Oak Creek is selling tickets for the raffle, which cost $10 for one or three for $25.

Veterans Day weekend, from Thursday, Nov. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 12, Cornelius will be at Weber?s selling the tickets


He?ll be accompanied by a display he created to honor veterans and educate the public.

Ninety-four display posters depicting American wars from World War II to the current war in Iraq will be set up in front of Weber?s during Veterans Day weekend.

Cornelius harvested the information on display from encyclopedias, books and from the battlefields where he slung a rifle over his shoulder back in 1944-45.

He has been developing the display for a year-and-a-half.

One poster displays a postcard Cornelius brought back from Italy showing an Italian soldier, a Japanese soldier and a German soldier hog-tying Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt with a Nazi flag.

Another two feature local war heroes Dick Van Dyke and Quentin Brown, who live in the VOC.

African-American soldiers are honored on one poster.

Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush grace another.

Cornelius made a poster of his own military accomplishments, but it will not be part of the show.

?Arrogance, you know,? he said, explaining the quality he does not want to display.

The posters are simply constructed but skillfully designed.

Large pictures make it easy to understand the complex array of text — ranging from clippings from 1940 Life magazines to encyclopedia entries and even poems.

Cornelius put his time and effort into the display because ?I thought veterans are never appreciated enough,? he said.

After the four-day show at Weber?s, Cornelius plans to donate his display to a local school.

?I want to educate the kids,? he said.

One theme that resonates through Cornelius? display is the resourcefulness and ambition of the Greatest Generation, who rationed and saved and brainstormed their way through the Great Depression and the war that followed.

Cornelius himself is an example of these qualities. But he doesn?t believe they are elegated to his generation.?All Americans are the same,? he said. ?If it came down to the nitty-gritty, they?d all do the same thing.?

For more information or to buy tickets, call Cornelius at 284-0603.


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