Dear Spencer and Claire,

I received the opportunity to be a voice of hundreds of people in our community and speak to the two of you about your mother. I have a tremendous amount of respect and love for both of you.

Everyone I have talked to describes your mom as a cheery person who always had a smile on her face. Your mom also worked to put a smile on the faces of those around her.

For those who don’t know Mrs. Cornwell, Mary Beth was a cheerleader at West Washington High School and later worked here as a coach.

“My best memories with Mary Beth are the many conversations we had, trying to convince her that Claire was a volleyball player, not a cheerleader,” said volleyball coach Kyle Neukam. He recalled this with a big smile on his face.

Mrs. Cornwell was very involved with her community and had great respect for local law enforcement and the fire department.

State police officer Craig Starr made visits speaking in your mom’s classroom and became a close friend.

One time, he said your mom put a rubber snake in the crawl space of his house. But that’s not even the best memory he had.

“I actually used to be an auctioneer, so one time I came to her class and demonstrated how an auctioneer does his job. The object we were selling was herself. I actually got tired from talking so much, because the kids kept putting bids on her. Mary Beth was priceless to them, and I think that’s how she was to a lot of people – priceless,” said Starr.

He talked about how she was upbeat, always smiling, and how she was always fun to be around.

“She was always really easy to talk to. And I think the biggest thing for her was listening. She was always a great listener,” said Starr.

Sara and Jason “Dutch” Parks, your neighbors, also have many fond memories of your mom.

“I remember we would jump on her trampoline and laugh until we cried or peed, which happens when you get older,” said guidance secretary Sara Parks.

“Mary Beth would always want to volunteer for the fire department. She would always call us and asked if there’s anything she could help with. She loved to help wash the trucks,” said Dutch.

Since this unexpected tragedy had happened, your classmates and friends have watched the two of you with awe. Spencer and Claire, you guys are an inspiration to a lot of people in our school and community in how you have handled this difficult situation since your mother first fell ill.

“I really respect Spencer and his family for how well they handled it. This really opened my eyes and made me realize that I take things for granted,” said senior Ethan Wells.

“Claire is just the same as Mary Beth; she always has a smile on her face and her bubbly personality puts a smile on everyone else’s face,” said freshman Jaylin Busick.

Spencer and Claire, I want you both to do me a favor. Me, personally. I want you both to lean on us if you ever feel down. Unfortunately others here have experienced this kind of loss, but may be able to help you in ways the rest of us can’t. And most of all, I want you to lean on me if there’s anything that any of you need. If either of you ever need a hug, someone to talk to or someone to have a good laugh with, I want you to come to me.

I imagine there are many ready to give you a hug if you need it.

Though I never knew your mother personally, I feel like I do after having written this.

Ron Compton and the Paolite staff