December 19, 2023, Robert Franklin “Old Bob” Cornett died in Josephine County, where he lived for nearly 60 years. He was 95 years and almost 5 months old, a long life well-lived.
He was born July 22, 1928 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Lloyd Cornett and Veva (Sanford) Cornett. He grew up in Newaygo County, Michigan, in and around Aetna, White Cloud, and Fremont, where he made maple syrup and went squirrel hunting with his eighth grade teacher.
During his teenage years, he caught many fish off the Muskegon Pier, while living in nearby government housing. His family worked for Continental Motors making supplies for the war, as did many families at the time.
Old Bob joined the United States Navy in September 1945 at age 17. While on leave in the summer of 1949, he was introduced to Audrey Schultz by her brother Bill, whose family lived in the same Muskegon government housing. They married on August 8, 1952 in Eureka, Calif., where Audrey then worked as a telephone operator. While he served in the Navy,
Bob and Audrey lived in Kansas, Florida, California, and Washington state while raising three children – Kathi, Jon, and Bill. While living in Imperial Beach, California, he was PTA president at his childrens’ local elementary school. During his military career, he notably served in the Korean War as an Aviation Ordnance Chief.
After his discharge from the Navy in 1965, Bob and his family settled in the Illinois Valley.
Old Bob went to work for Cabax Mill in Kerby until they were sold to Westbrook in the late 1970s. He then worked in the woods for Plumlee Logging, loading log trucks for the summer once the mill closed permanently. From May 1982 to October 1992, Old Bob worked for the city of Cave Junction Public Works Department, retiring as its Director.
After his retirement, he kept busy spending as much time as possible outdoors, hiking to the river from his home on Sauer’s Flat and exploring the local woods. He believed that in addition to good nutrition, these are great activities for mental health and physical well-being. He loved the Lord – his favorite scripture verse was Galatians 2:20 and his favorite hymn was “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.” He was baptized in the Illinois River in September 2005.
During his 30+ years of retirement, Old Bob continued to actively serve his community and promote healthy living. He participated in a vegetarian cooking and healthy living seminar, and volunteered as a community member at large for the Josephine County Mental Health Board.
He assisted at the food pantry in Cave Junction for many years. He also volunteered at the SDA Madrone Elementary School, reading with students. He volunteered for the BLM, keeping the public restrooms at the boardwalk along Eight Dollar Mountain Road clean and tidy. He continued this work until shortly before moving to Grants Pass in June 2015.
Old Bob was an avid nature photographer and videographer – he undoubtedly amassed the best visual record for Chinook salmon runs on the Illinois River from the early 1990s into the early 2010s. Old Bob facilitated sharing his Great Courses DVD sets on brain health with the residents where he lived in Grants Pass, as well as opening the weekly sessions to the public for anyone interested to join. Regularly, he drove to the public library in Ashland to participate in a brain book discussion group. During the pandemic, he learned to Zoom with this same group to continue their meetings.
Old Bob also participated in the Blue Zone groups that were active in
Grants Pass for a time before the pandemic. In his 90s, he changed his phone number, learned
to text, and take fun selfies on his flip phone that his family now treasures. In addition to his
curious mind and faithful heart, his sense of humor was a defining character quality – he always
delighted in making others laugh.
Old Bob was preceded in death by his parents Lloyd and Veva, his brother Bernie, and the love
of his life, Audrey. His survivors include his daughter Kathleen (Robert), son Jon (Diane), and
son William; four grandchildren – Sabrina, Nathan, Kristina, and Pamela (Michael); five
great-grandchildren – Rian, Camryn, Casey, Cali, and Jerzee; his sister-in-law Shirley Hanson
and brother-in-law Robert Schultz; and many nieces and nephews. Memorials will be held in the
spring and summer with internment at Eagle Point National Cemetery in May.
Toodle-oo for now.
If you find in your heart to make a donation in memory of Old Bob, the following organizations
were dear to his heart:
Food Pantry, Cave Junction – CJACS, located at 265 S. Old Stage Rd.
Madrone Adventist Elementary School, located at 4330 Holland Loop Road
The mailing address for both organizations is listed below. Please specify which organization
your donation is for.
PO Box 330
Cave Junction, OR 97523
Illinois Valley Branch of the Josephine County Library
200 NW C St.
Grants Pass, OR 97526