Courier-Leader & Flashes

Obituary: Pete Cornish

Pete Cornish – journeyed from his adventures on this earth from his home on Friday, November 4, 2022.
Pete was born in Lawton, MI to Elwyn and Lena Cornish. He took up the family’s tradition of farming the land at a very young age and tended that land right up until his passing. He graduated from Lawton High School in 1961 and went on to WMU to study psychology; however, his journey took him well beyond the scope of the family’s Sesquicentennial farm. Pete received his commercial pilot’s license at the age of 16 and found a great love of flying with his cousin Danny, including family reunions many years at the hangar with flights for the kids. Pete continued his passion for the air with many friends later in life and loved attending the Oshkosh fly-in.
In 1966, Pete joined the Peace Corps. He spent his training time in Hawaii and then went on to spend two years on the island of Pulusuk in Micronesia. He embraced their language and culture with a deep respect for their traditions, until the death of his father. He returned to Michigan to take care of the family and the farm. Over the course of many years, he and the family, sponsored several Micronesian youth as foreign exchange students. His passion for the people of Micronesia and the Peace Corps carried with him the rest of his life, and he enjoyed sharing stories of his experiences in the Pacific.
After returning from Pulusuk, he received his master’s degree from Western Michigan University and began teaching the first classes in Educational Psychology at WMU. At a staff retirement party, he met the love of his life, Wendy. They spent the first years traveling for Pete’s motorcycle races and starting up two motorcycle and snowmobile shops with Pete’s sister Anne and brother-in-law Terry. After they sold the businesses, Pete turned to other ventures and started his own computing business. In retirement, he began teaching at the Semi-Academy drivers education program for several years. Whenever something stopped being fun, he picked something else to teach himself. 
The greatest adventures, trials, and joys came from raising his two children, Jason and Laura, with Wendy. Pete took his family across the country in their mini motorhome – camping in National Parks from Yellowstone and the Badlands, to the Grand Canyon and Denali, with excursions like whitewater rafting and glacier climbing. When not traveling Pete and his family spent summer days on Cedar Lake where he and Wendy loved to host gatherings for family and friends, and where he took care of his mother after she built a house next door. Pete enjoyed boating, skiing into his 70s, motorcycle riding, snowmobiling, and working on the farm.
Favorite traditions of Pete’s included taking the first bite of corn for the season right in the field, making Lena’s homemade ice cream in the summer and wine in the fall with his son-in-law Aaron. Card games with family and friends were a cornerstone of fun and usually included some good needling of his opponents. Pete loved teaching anyone a life skill and could fix or build most anything – including his own home. He never missed a Memorial Day Ceremony, except for his two years overseas, and was exceptionally proud of his son Jason for his military service. Animals loved Pete, following him wherever he went, and became essential parts of the family. Pete’s church was sitting in the woods of what he called Happy Valley – whether he was hunting or just listening to the sounds of nature, it was his peace.
Pete instilled in his children a sense of caretaking and stewardship for family, community, and the land around them, which can be seen in Pete’s forging the creation of the Cornish State Game Area, so that everyone could enjoy the beauty in nature, and to protect that land for future generations.
He is preceded in death by his parents, and Wendy his wife of forty-seven years. In addition to his children Jason, Laura and son-in-law Aaron, he is survived by his sister, Anne; nieces: Karen and Sarah, and their families.
Please join us at a Life Story Visitation on Saturday (NOV 12) from 4-7 PM at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw, MI 49079 (269) 657-3870 where A Life Story Service will be held Sunday (NOV 13) at 11AM. Burial will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery. Visit Pete’s webpage at to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. In honor of Pete’s love for animals, donations may be made to the Paw Paw Veterinary Clinic, in lieu of flowers to help those in need.

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