An eight-hour round-trip to Raleigh this past Tuesday was a long drive for what I thought would likely be a very short recognition of Mona by the state House. Buncombe County Rep. Nathan Ramsey had introduced House Resolution 1266 honoring Mona’s life and memory and expressing the House’s gratitude for her service to A-B Tech, Western North Carolina and the state.
I assume such honors are somewhat routine, but even were they given to every other citizen, I could be no less proud of the remarkable woman who for some strange reason decided to marry me. When I talk about her these days, more and more I find I can pause and regain my composure without breaking down. But it’s still awfully hard not to crumble when someone else is talking about her and speaking her name. So as the clerk read House Resolution 1266, each paragraph beginning with “Whereas Mona Cornwell,” I squeezed my hands together as tight as I could trying to keep from sobbing. I continued to clench them as Rep. Ramsey and Henderson County Rep. Susan Fisher rose and spoke on Mona’s contributions to our area. And I was so honored when. Rep. Verla Insko of Orange County spoke about Mona’s influence across the state.
The entire process of adopting the resolution took less than 15 minutes. And though I know its unanimous passage was a formality, I can’t tell you how honored I was as my family and representatives from A-B Tech stood and received a standing ovation from House members in Mona’s honor.
It’s impossible to drive to Raleigh now without thinking of the many times she made the same round trip the same day to work on Crisis Intervention Team training or other initiatives to improve the quality of life for our citizens with mental health diagnoses. As I drove, I couldn’t help but think what a shame she was being honored posthumously. Then again, she would have never allowed any of it had she had anything to do with it, always shunning the spotlight and deflecting credit to others.
I’m finally at a point I can move ahead in efforts to keep Mona’s memory, love and spirit alive through Mona’s Legacy, a fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina established to continue her good works in the areas of homelessness, mental health and education. I invite those reading this to join those efforts, if so inclined, by letting me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope everyone reading this will at the least like Mona’s Legacy Facebook page and visit MonasLegacy.org. Compassionate, humble, and with an innate sense of what was right and just, hers was a presence that should never be forgotten.