It's been many years since Creel Cornwell's pig Poindexter placed second in the 4-H Ham and Bacon Show, and Cheryl Cornwell won state 4-H Mental Health Queen.
But for the Cornwells, Creel, now an accomplished doctor, and Cheryl, an equally accomplished therapist, 4-H was a defining part of their youth. So much so that the Harrison County couple have left a generous legacy gift through their will that will support West Virginia 4-H, a program of WVU Extension Service.
"I felt that we should give back as much as possible, particularly to these programs that are very important to the young people," Creel said.
The couple has no children of their own.
"We see the state's children as our children, so this will be our legacy," Cheryl said.
Creel and Cheryl both grew up in Harrison County. In his Rockford neighborhood, 4-H was something "you just did," and Creel's mother, Beulah, became a 4-H leader. Cheryl's experience was much the same. It seemed, she said, like every kid in her neighborhood was a member of the Nutter Fort Lucky Horseshoes.
Cheryl remembers her first 4-H project, Pack & Snack. She thrived on the goal-oriented program.
"For me it was the acquisition of skills," Cheryl said. "I was always a project directed kid. It taught me things and gave me a goal."
It also was the venue for Cheryl and Creel to meet in 1965. He was a senior in college, and his mother didn't drive, so she asked him to escort her to a 4-H event. Cheryl saw him sitting in the stands and told her 4-H leader, "make that boy ask me to dance." And that was it.
Forty-four years later, the Cornwells have had successful careers and have been active members of the community. Cheryl earned her law degree from WVU in 1974 and then her two master's degrees in child development and counseling in 1991 and 1992, respectively. She now works as a therapist at United Summit Center in Clarksburg.
Creel has his own practice, which he opened in Clarksburg in 1973. The Cornwells initiated the development of a Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Northcentral West Virginia in the early 1980s. Creel started the coronary care unit at Stonewall Hospital in Weston. In 1978, he began the first hospital-based cardiac rehab program in West Virginia.
Cheryl has been a therapist for 17 years and served as the project attorney on the Stonewall Jackson Lake project. The two have also made a bequest to the new United Hospital Center and will have the critical care unit named for their family. And their bequest to WVU includes support for health sciences.
"I thought it was about time," Creel said.
The WVU Extension Service operates the 4-H program through local offices in every county of the state. Through clubs, special interest groups, camps, after-school programs, and individual projects, 4-H reaches more than 80,000 - or one out of every four - young people statewide. They are supported by more than 7,200 adult volunteers who serve as mentors.