Fred Orville Cornett, age 88, of Gulf Breeze, Florida passed away on Friday, January 11, 2019.
Fred was born on December 23, 1930 in Murphysboro, Illinois. He graduated from Murphysboro Township High School (“The Red Devils”) in 1948 and was remembered by his school mates as a “swell” guy. He was a member of the first Red Devils basketball team to reach the Illinois state basketball finals and was elected to the Red Devils Athletic Hall of Fame on January 12, 2013. After high school Fred joined the Navy as an enlisted man. On May 31, 1953 he became a “Trusted Shellback” having crossed the equator and invaded the Realm aboard the USS Lake Champlain.
A few years later Fred was selected to attend Officers Candidate School in Athens, Georgia. Finishing first in his class, he was appointed the grade of Ensign on June 1, 1956. Fred’s additional educational accomplishments included obtaining a BS from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California on June 1, 1964 (thus becoming a first generation college graduate) and an MBA from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 13, 1968.
Fred’s Navy career spanned 26 years with travel across the United States and Asia and was awarded the following medals: Korean Service Medal; Korean Presidential Unit Citation; United Nations Service Medal; Navy Occupation Medal (Europe); National Defense Medal and Meritorious Unit Commendation. He retired with the rank of Commander on June 1, 1974 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He then spent about 15 years in the private sector working primarily for CACI in Arlington, Virginia.
In “retirement” Fred was voted in as a Councilman for the Town of Hilton Head serving from 1989-1991. He was part of the Council that began the first beach nourishment program, banned beachside drinking and created Beach Parks for public access to insure community access to beaches. From 1998-2002 he served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Federation of Square Dancers. In 2002 he was President of the Federation and Chairman of the Florida Square Dance Convention in Lakeland, Florida.
The last eighteen years of his life he devoted to Interfaith Ministries in Gulf Breeze. Starting from humble beginnings with the assistance of Shirley, his wife, and hundreds of volunteers, he helped put in place a thrift shop, a financial assistance office and a free medical clinic. Santa Rosa County is blessed to have Interfaith Ministries/Good Samaritan Clinic to serve its’ under-resourced and under-served citizens with housing, utilities, food, clothing, free medical care and free medications. He is member of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church.
Fred is survived by is wife, Shirley Craycraft Cornett; his daughter, Kathy Cornett Simpson; sons, Fred O. Cornett, Jr. and Donald E. Cornett; step-daughter Cheryl Craycraft; step-son Scott Craycraft; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be at 9:00 am followed by a memorial service at 10:00 am and reception at 11:00 am on Friday, January 25, 2019 at Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, 75 Fairpoint Drive, Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561. Interment will follow at Barrancas National Cemetery with full military honors. Procession will meet at Olive Baptist Church-Warrington Campus, 103 West Winthrop Avenue, Pensacola, Florida 32507 at 12:30 pm and enter the Naval Air Station Main Gate together.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Interfaith Ministries, 4435 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Gulf Breeze, FL 32563.