Bob Cornelius, Rest in Peace


I just heard that a longtime coworker died tonight. He had been battling through a nasty diagnosis of cancer that was found just over a year ago. Through his battle, he never complained to any of us at work or acted like it was an imposition. He treated this like he did everything… Calm, cool and collected.
I have a ton of thoughts about Bob, as I worked with him in sales when he first came to Fort’s back in 1997 or 98. We worked side by side on the sales floor and he showed me you could do that job with class.
I do have a story about something that happened year or so ago…

Bob had pissed me off… I was dragged into a reconditioning issue on a car he had just sold… It was not something that I thought I should have to handle, and I was quite peeved that he wanted me to take care of it. I was out back, behind the store pissing and moaning to the vendor who was doing the fabric repair about what a jerk Bob was. The vendor, Mike, is a super guy as well who wouldn’t say a swear word if slugged his kid (at least that’s the impression I get, not looking to find out). He just worked on the problem as I hovered and never commented. It was perfect timing that Bob should come from around the corner and hear my berating him. I turned and saw his hurt face. “Well, that’s not very nice” was what he said to me… He then turned and walked away.

Here was the thing about Bob… You could not honestly say something bad about him.  Nobody who knew him would believe you anyway. You could have a disagreement, but it would never escalate. Bob was too nice for that. So, for me to berate him behind his back was certainly the low road. I know he would never have done that to me. I was completely shamed by this incident. We talked about it later in my office, because that’s what he would do, and it was all fine.

The car he was having me help with was just another of the thousands of cars he sold to Toyota loving customers in the Peoria area. As one of the best salesman ever (my declaration, I dare you to find someone who disagrees), he would single handedly take care of every concern a customer had with their new car. If that meant using me as a tool to make a happy customer, then so be it. That’s what made him great, and something I can appreciate from a service perspective, his “start to finish” attitude. It’s not something you can train. It’s something that he personally mastered and it’s why he constantly “led the board” in sales.

I shared this story because it’s a nugget of regret for me that we had this battle. But, it’s also a demonstration of what he would go through daily to get the job done.

He has been missed by many already. I personally miss his attitude he brought with him every day. There is more to life than work, I don’t want place his value solely in his job at Fort’s. But, we all want to work with kind and caring people who share the same mindset. Get the job done right and take care of the customer. That was the Bob I knew.

The world needs more Bob’s.

PS.  I am approving comments as I get them.  Thanks for that.  I have them turned off because of SPAM.  This was not meant to be any kind of official post, but I am happy others have related to it.

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3 Responses to Bob Cornelius, Rest in Peace

  1. Joe Morrow says:

    Outstanding share Eric. I feel your remorse over the incident in your words. Bob sounds like the kind of guy who, if he were telling the story, it would be of a guy who made a mistake, owned it, showed some respect and moved on. You’re right. The world needs more Bob’s.

  2. Don Bischoff says:

    I knew Bob from HS. He was a very good friend of one of my friends at that time Scott Altorfer. While I was away at college out of state from IL he and Scott had a horrific auto accident that resulted in both having the same leg broken in just about the same place. They were both laid up for months.
    I was as close to Bob as were some of other friends like Kerry Brant who, I think bought about 6 cars from Bob over the years. I am sure he is saddened by this event.
    One thing about Bob is ha had integrity and he “knew” the business as his father owned Cornelius AMC in Tampa for years until the automaker went belly up. Bob drove a new Javelin every year. We had a blast with each one. He watched how his father operated his own business and was savvy enough to “pick-up” on those skills. I’m glad it paid off for him well.
    He will be missed but NO one can take away our memories of him RIP Bob, until we meet again!!

  3. Mary Tometich says:

    Thanks for sharing this Eric. I also shared this on my Facebook. Bob was definitely one of a kind and working with him for the few years I did, I don’t think I ever saw him get angry or raise his voice. In a place with as much testosterone as a car dealership, that’s pretty rare. We even kept in touch in the years after I had quit working there. I referred family and friends to him if they were interested in buying a Toyota because, like you pointed out, he was simply the best. He never forgot a name or face and made everyone feel as they were the most important. Skills not only that can’t be learned but also shows what a strong people person and great friend he was. He will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to have met him. And send my thoughts and prayers to his family.

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