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Jean Marie Cornwell

Jean Marie Cornwell


Jean Marie Cornwell (nee Simonson), 91, passed away peacefully on January 25, 2023, with family members at her side. She was predeceased by her husband of over 50 years John B. Cornwell, daughter Kristi Cornwell, and her parents Clarence Daniel Simonson and Ruth Marion (Loberg) Simonson. She is survived by her siblings Robert Simonson and Mary Larsen; sons John (Joyce), Byron, Lawrence and David (Debjani) Cornwell, daughter Ann Kaklamanos; grandchildren Andrew, Alex and Paul (Nilou) Kaklamanos, Steven, Hannah, Ben, and Aurick Cornwell, Eleanor (Daylan) Carlson, and Siobhan (David) Lagro; and great grandchildren Ramona and Harriet Lagro. A memorial service will be held at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in DeLand, Florida at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday February 25, 2023, and all friends of the family are invited to attend.

Jean was born in 1931 in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, a small town of less than 1,000 inhabitants, and grew up on a small farm in a time when water had to be pumped by hand and carried to the house, and outhouses were the norm. Children did farm chores such as helping their mother can fruit and vegetables, milking cows, feeding chickens, gathering eggs, baling hay, and working in the fields, both before and after walking over a mile to school (often through the snow). Despite this, Jean had fond memories of her childhood, and said that even though she grew up during the depression, she and her six siblings, Murville, Millie, Dick, Joanie, Bob and Mary, were always well fed, healthy, and happy.

Jean was of Norwegian descent and said that her parents often spoke Norwegian to each other when they did not want their children to understand what they were saying. She also jokingly told of her grandmother Loberg who refused to let grandchildren who did not speak Norwegian (including Jean) into her house -- except for the kitchen if it was very cold out. In her later years Jean had the opportunity to visit Norway with her daughter Ann. Although the families of both her mother and father had left Norway in the mid-1800s, Jean was welcomed in Norway by a number of her relatives from both sides of her family, some of whom even bore a familial resemblance. Jean and Ann were taken by these relatives to various places of interest in Norway, including a family farm (still owned by Jean's relations some 170 years later). There Jean was shown the cabin, with the original handmade furniture still present, where her grandfather was born. Jean also traveled with a friend to Alaska, where she visited the Kettleson Memorial library in Sitka, Alaska, named for one of her Norwegian relatives who was an early Alaskan settler. Jean also was in frequent contact with her Canadian/Norwegian relatives, particularly her cousin Myrna Simonson, whom she was able to meet and get to know at a family reunion in Alberta, Canada.

After graduating high school in Wisconsin, Jean obtained employment as an au pair to a family with homes in Chicago, Hyannis Port, and Philadelphia. While so employed Jean met her future husband John "Jack" Cornwell at the Philadelphia Country Club. At the time of their meeting, he was employed at the club as a swimming instructor and swim coach and was also a professional singer. The couple were married in Wisconsin in 1950, and had their first child, Ann, in Philadelphia in 1951. Later that year, the couple moved to DeLand, FL, a town John Cornwell had come to know and love while stationed at the DeLand Naval Air Base during World War II.

The couple immediately purchased a home on the corner of Florida Avenue and Luella Court in downtown DeLand, with John obtaining employment first at DeLeon Springs, later as an abstractor, and finally with the Volusia County Public Works Department, where he worked until his retirement. While living downtown the family grew quickly with the births of John (1955), Kristi (1956), Byron (1959), and Larry (1961). Later, the family moved to their present home on East Minnesota Avenue, where the couple had their last child David (1970), and where both Jean and John resided until their deaths. The family loved both of their neighborhoods in DeLand, living only blocks from Dempsie Brewster School in their first house, and a block from Boston Avenue School in their second. The family made many lifelong friends while living in both neighborhoods.

During her 72 years in DeLand, in addition to raising her large family, Jean first worked part-time for Volusia County in the county's photostat department (in the basement of the old courthouse). Later, she was employed at Stetson University, first at Dupont-Ball Library, and then in Stetson's language department, where she worked until her retirement. Jean enjoyed working at Stetson, and liked, and was well liked, by both her co-workers, and by the Stetson students she worked with. Jean was also a very active member in her church, Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church. She was an early member of the church, which initially met at the DeLand Woman's Club on W. Michigan Avenue prior to building and moving to its present location on E. Pennsylvania Avenue. She made many friendships in the church and was active in the church's affairs for most of her life.

Jean is remembered affectionately by her family as a loving and diligent mother, who kept her children well fed, dressed in clean clothes (often clothes she had made for them), clean, and well disciplined. She was able for the most part to achieve these feats despite raising a crowd of naturally unruly boys who spent most of their early childhood outdoors playing games and sports, and occasionally fighting -- and who often came home at night covered in sweat, grass, and dirt.

Jean also tended to her children's religious upbringing, with all her children required to attend not only weekly Sunday school and church, but also (much to their dismay), summer vacation Bible school, and ultimately confirmation classes. Jean's husband Jack, who rarely attended church services unless he was paid to sing at them, often noted that Jean was fully in charge of their children's religious upbringing. However, it was his children's secret belief that their father's actual motive for encouraging the mandatory church attendance Jean required, was the opportunity it afforded him to sleep in on Sundays - and for one morning at least, to enjoy his coffee in solitary tranquility.

It also usually fell to Jean to tend to her children when they were sick with routine childhood illnesses, which was often given the size of the family. In this regard, her children remember fondly the many times she gently nursed them when they had childhood ailments like tonsillitis, flu, mumps, strep throat, or chicken pox. They also remember, with slightly less fondness, her uncanny ability to easily detect when they were faking illnesses in an attempt to get out of going to school. Jean also gently bandaged their frequent injuries, applying Mercurochrome, or if the injury was of a more serious nature, torturing them with a stinging application of Iodine. In this same vein, her children now remember with appreciation their regular trips to Dr. Valentine, traipsing to his office on foot behind their mother, for annual examinations, vaccination injections, and vaccination boosters - visits which at the time were not so positively appreciated.

While their imposing father was the nuclear option, is was also Jean, despite her naturally sweet temperament, who was often in the position of having to discipline her many children. She had many opportunities to do so - particularly in the case of her sons. A few examples of such discipline was her frequent use of handy hairbrushes and/or belts on small boys splashing water all over her clean bathroom, and/or using her toilet seat as a diving board to leap into a full sudsy bathtub, and/or using the top of a dresser to jump upon and break a bed. She also had a propensity for actually washing small boy's mouths out with soap, particularly after hearing them using language usually reserved for dockside bars. Moreover, she was not shy about using weeklong "restrictions" for offenses such as stealing change, sneaking into the movies, skipping Sunday school, shoplifting penny candy, stealing pastries off the back window of nearby bakeries, and skipping school (to name a few).

In sum, Jean was always fully present in her many children's lives -- waking them for school, preparing breakfast, packing lunches to be carried in metal lunchboxes, baking cookies and snacks for them when they got home from school, cooking them dinner, making them set the table for the family dinners eaten together every night, making them desserts, reading bed-time stories, tucking them in and hearing their prayers, making them take music and art lessons, taking them to the doctor, caring for them when they were sick, checking their report cards, talking to their teachers, attending school and sporting events they were participating in, disciplining them and comforting them -- everything a loving mother should do. For all these things (and many others) she was deeply loved and will be deeply missed by all her children, as well as her grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

The family would like to thank the staff at Advent Health Hospital in DeLand for their kindness and diligence in caring for Jean during her last days and nights. The family would also like to thank Jean's past medical providers, whose treatment allowed her to survive metastasized breast cancer (first diagnosed in 1985), for almost four decades. We are very grateful to have had our mother with us for so many more years than was first expected -- and it is hoped that Jean's fairly miraculous longevity will be an inspiration to others with breast cancer.

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