One of the great benefits that came to children in the Lancaster County school system over the course of recent years was getting to know Cornell Conaway, who served at the middle school in a variety of positions across the span of his career.
He proctored examinations, assisted the teaching faculty and most importantly of all mentored numerous students, encouraging them always to do their best.
Cornell was a native of the county. He came from a large family of others who also were dedicated to being of service to the community at large. His brother, Donald, recently retired as the first surgical assistant at Rappahannock General Hospital, where he had worked for 40 years. In addition, Donald was the founding pastor of The Church of Deliverance in Lively and served with distinction on the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors.
In his staff position at the middle school, Cornell took a personal interest in the progress of every student. He instinctively knew when to be firm and when to be gentle. He was beloved by all. I write these words based on the wonderful things I learned about him as the two B.E.s went through the school. When the B.E.s would come home from school, we often heard about what Mr. Conaway had said to them that day.
Cornell continued to follow his students’ progress throughout their education and into their subsequent careers. He beamed upon hearing about students’ success in the course of their later lives and he always wanted to know where they were and what they were doing. In that regard, he was constant in sending his good wishes to them.
His memory was outstanding, as evidenced by his remembering every child’s name and personal details about the child’s time at the middle school. He took personal and permanent pride in his students; he never forgot any of them, always seeing them as his friends.
Two years ago, at a gala held in celebration of Donald’s 20th anniversary as pastor of his church, the Conaway family demonstrated another talent, one of which I previously was not aware. Reminiscent of the Trapp family from “The Sound of Music,” the Conaway brothers and sisters presented a musical program that captivated every person in the assemblage.
Afterwards, Cornell told me that music had been a part of the family tradition for his entire life; I was not surprised. Their marvelous sense of harmony, timing and rhythm was delightful to see and to hear. Each of them understood how to communicate lyrically to an attentive and appreciative audience.
Cornell was a quiet and caring person, one who never sought to speak of his talents, one who eschewed fame and honor, one who lived every day according to the Golden Rule. He let his deeds and his character speak for him. He was both a joy and an inspiration to know.
Sadly, this kind and thoughtful gentleman who spent much of his life giving to others, contracted COVID-19, and last month he died from the disease, leaving an unforgettable mark and a stellar light in the lives of the young people he mentored and counseled. He was an example to everyone, both young and old. He truly lived a worthy life, and our community is all the better for his having lived it here in our midst.
Cornell Brewington Conaway, September 8, 1948 – September 15, 2021. R.I.P.