At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Wendy L. Cornish Endowed Dance Scholarship
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Wendy Cornish -- died peacefully at her lake home on April 2nd, in the presence of her beloved family – husband Pete, son Jason, daughter Laura and son-in-law Aaron, accompanied by the two family dogs, Jake and Mack. Over her lengthy illness, she received hundreds of notes and remembrances from family, colleagues and alumni from Western Michigan University where she was a professor emerita of the dance department. Her family and her dance family were the two most important things in her life.
She was born in Marquette, MI, in 1944, the third daughter of Wesley “Wackey” Olson and Lois Jean Rowe. She took up the family commitment to ice skating when she was two and skated professionally during summers while in college. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her Master’s from Western Michigan University, she joined the faculty of the Department of Physical Education for Women at WMU where she taught dance and beginning swimming classes and initiated the first ice skating course offerings.
When the College of Fine Arts was created, Wendy spearheaded the curricular developments which established the first dance degree at WMU and she served as dance department chair. Collaboration was a significant factor in creating choreography and lighting design for productions, and she cherished her partnerships with colleagues from theatre, music and art. During her 37-year career as a faculty member, Wendy received awards for creative work, service and teaching, and was named the Helen Frays Professor of Dance, one of the first six named professorships at WMU.
Wendy spent some of her favorite hours with her family during the summers. She enjoyed cooking and the whole family took pleasure in entertaining friends with lake-centered activities. She was ready to feed two people or twenty, never knowing just how many would be around for supper. Making home-made ice cream was an August tradition.
Holidays were important for family gatherings, stemming back to her youth in Marquette with the extended Olson family. At the lake, Christmas decorations went up with flourish, a self-cut tree, and lots of sparkling lights.
Throughout her life, family gatherings at any time of the year became the base from which family culture was woven: stories were told; myths may have been born; legends were created; family love and loyalty were rooted; pride in accomplishments and humility were equally honored. In 2001, Wendy hosted a reunion for the extended Olson family, accompanied by a family book which she produced.
Pete, Wendy, Jason and Laura took several trips out west in a late-1970s model motor home, small enough to get through many back roads that bigger rigs couldn’t manage, that led to adventure. They camped in national parks, from Mesa Verde to Yellowstone to Denali and many more. Wendy loved her Upper Peninsula roots and they spent much time exploring it from shore to shore.
After traveling, they often pulled in next to their home by the lake and said, “Best camping spot of all.” Wendy felt very fortunate to live near nature, with farmland and grape vineyards nearby, and with a beautiful lake in the front yard to allow time to reflect on life. Over the years, it gave her satisfaction to help Pete instill in their children a sense of heredity and caretaking of land including a Sesquicentennial Farm established in the 1850s. This land is something she especially treasured during these recent months.
Most importantly, and attested to by the many messages she has received in the past few months, Wendy left a legacy of hard work and mentorship which made a significant imprint on the lives of many students.
She is preceded in death by her parents and a brother Greg who died as an infant. In addition to her husband Pete, son Jason, daughter Laura and son-in-law Aaron, Wendy is survived by: sisters Judy and Karen, brother-in-law Dave, sister-in-law Anne, and several nieces, nephews, cousins and their children.
A Life Story memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers: Contributions to the Wendy L. Cornish Endowed Dance Scholarship may be made online at wmich.edu/dance/support) and/or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan would be deeply appreciated. Arrangements by Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw, MI (269)657-3870. www.BetzlerLifeStory.com