A year after Pulse, Cory Connell’s legacy lives on

Cory Connell, seen here with his sister Amanda, was one of the 49 who lost their lives at Pulse last summer.

Some people change their communities through their presence. But it takes a special person to continue to change the community during his absence.

Cory Connell was one of the latter; in the year since his death June 12, 2016, College Park has felt the impact of his personality through the actions of his loved ones. Although he is physically gone from the community, his legacy of kindness and empathy lives on.

“The impact he had when he was here … we’re finding out so much more after it than when he was here really,” his mother, Tara Connell, said.

Cory’s friend Alexis Merrill, who went to Edgewater High School and worked at Publix with him, said that in the year since Cory’s passing, she has made even more of an effort than usual to be kind to others. “In this past year … I always have the mentality of treating people with what I call ‘Cory kindness,’ like how he treated people,” she said.

Merrill reflected on the time she spent working with Cory at the Publix in College Park and remarked on his ability to engage with customers. She said, “He could turn someone’s bad day around by giving them a smile.”

Now, she tries to do the same, with his memory in mind. “The thing that really helps me is making sure I carry on his kindness,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing for me — always making sure I treat people how he treated people.”

Edgewater students Destiny Morales and Adam Williams display Cory Connell scholarship plaque.

Edgewater students Destiny Morales and Adam Williams display Cory Connell scholarship plaque.

May 10, the Edgewater High School PTSA granted a new scholarship in Cory’s name to two graduating seniors. According to past PTSA president Kim Waldron, who proposed giving the scholarship in Cory’s honor, Edgewater administration and guidance counselors chose students who mirrored some of those same qualities Cory had on and off campus as an Edgewater grad.

“The Cory James Connell PTSA scholarship represents individuals who are positive, involved, driven, overachievers, hard-working, respectful, and humble, just to name a few,” said Ryan Connell, Cory’s older brother. “Although Cory isn’t with us today, we are hopeful that this scholarship will continue his legacy and his dream that one man — or woman — could change the world.”

Cory’s legacy will live on in the students who receive his scholarship in the coming years, in the kindness his friends try to show to others, and in one other place: the life of his nephew, who was born in August 2016.

“I really think that if Cory were still alive today, I think that him and that baby would probably have a better bond than anybody,” James Connell, Cory’s father, said.

Cory’s sister, Ashley Pierre-Charles, announced at his funeral that she would name her baby after her brother, and now Cory’s parents say that the baby has helped fill the void that losing Cory left behind.

courtesy of Kim Waldron

The Connell family presenting the Edgewater High School PTSA Cory Connell Scholarship.

It’s easy to see that these are the people who taught Cory about kindness. His parents and grandparents, despite having lived through one of the worst things that could happen to a parent, showed nothing but kindness during our interview.

James Connell, Cory’s father, repeatedly expressed gratitude for the community support his family received after the tragedy, and regretted that other stories left out the times he tried to thank his friends and neighbors. He also brought up something he said he thinks about all the time: “These mothers and fathers that lose a child from a shooting every day … They don’t get that love and support that we got because it’s not a tragedy,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a tragedy to them. It’s a tragedy to that mother.”

Although his family no longer lives in College Park, Cory’s spirit can be felt in the neighborhood and in the friends he left behind both at Publix and at Edgewater High School. He may be gone — but his legacy of kindness is here to stay.

One Response to “A year after Pulse, Cory Connell’s legacy lives on”

  1. Becky Reitzel
    June 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    Is there a way to donate to the Cory James Connell PTSA scholarship ?

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