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Corry Stork: The picture of a community leader

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

Penn Yan

There she was—the petite put-together woman walking with determination toward one of the many items on her agenda for the day. Was it work at her family’s insurance agency, a meeting about the Yates Community Center or fund-raising for St. Michael’s parish, or was it some errand for one of the other non-profit organizations to which she was dedicated? 

Corry Stork

Chances are it was one or more of any of those, but it could just have easily have been a trip to the local book store to get the latest bestseller or a stop at a gift shop to pick up the perfect thing for one of her grandchildren. Or, it could have been to get supplies for the next bridge party. 

Whatever she had on her mind, Corrine Stork always seemed to be on a mission, but that didn’t stop her from greeting a friend and asking about their family. And it never deterred her from the most important thing in her life — her family.

Corry Stork, a Penn Yan community champion for nearly all of her 91 years on this earth, passed away Aug. 29, 2019, and stories about the woman so many knew and admired are being shared between family and friends.

As her daughters recalled their mother, the picture materializes of a strict taskmaster whose love was unconditional. They say their mother’s guidance fostered independence in each of her children. “There was never a question she was in our corner,” says daughter Kathy Bowles, who also adds with a laugh, “She always wanted her children to do their best,” Bowles says with Corry’s competitive nature, she would never let you win, but at the same time, she was very generous to her family and the community. 

Friends describe Corry as supportive, a mentor, a role model, and a strong leader. Like her late husband, Don, who passed in 2012, Corry was dedicated to her family, friends, and community. 

Linda Lefko got to know Corry through the St. Michael Catholic Church community. Over the years, their volunteer work together blossomed into an enduring friendship. “She didn’t wear her religion on her sleeve, but she was extremely supportive,” says Lefko, who worked with Corry on improvements and committees at the church. Lefko adds, “She was often a daily communicant, and she was financially supportive of the church.”

What Lefko will remember most about Corry Stork is her determination, demeanor, and her sense of humor. “She was like a girlfriend. I miss her already,” says Lefko, adding that Corry loved to visit and always enjoyed joining Father Jack and the Lefkos for a dinner date after Don’s death. But since this spring, when the pandemic kept most people confined to their homes, she admitted she was lonesome.

Recalling her impeccable wardrobe, Lefko will remember her as “the total package,” with her “wonderful Pendleton skirts and boiled wool jackets.” 

Kathy Waye, who has known Corry her entire life, says, “She and her late husband, Don, were my parents’ best friends. Our families have been blessed to have made so many wonderful memories together.

Waye continues, “Corry was an extremely bright, kind, and thoughtful person. Her commitment to her family, friends, work, and her community was amazing. If someone was in need, Corry was there to help… Our community benefited from so many things she was involved in. She wanted to make a difference.  She was committed to making her hometown a better place to live. 

“I used to tell her she was one of the most dedicated and caring people that I knew. Even in her 90s, she still had a lot of enthusiasm and energy to get things done. I don’t think anyone could say no to Corry when she asked them to help with one of the organizations she was passionate about.” adds Waye.

Leigh Berry, president of the Yates Community Center is grateful for Corry’s support, guidance, and mentorship in managing a community non-profit organization. When Berry draws a picture of Corry, it’s of a very strong, powerful, yet calm woman who was a strong leader despite facing opposition. 

“It was nice to know she was on my team and she was on my side. I feel very sad because I’m going to miss her kind of advice when you are trying to run a non-profit — to be able to have her in your corner. She’s been there. She’s done it.”

Simply put, says Berry, the community center would not exist were it not for Corry and Don Stork’s support. 

Dr. Jose Acevedo, president and CEO of Finger Lakes Health, expresses the sorrow felt in that health care organization, explaining, “Mrs. Stork has been a long time champion for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital and supporter of Finger Lakes Health. She has been a passionate, effective advocate for local healthcare and has served as a ‘board member extraordinaire,’ playing a role in some capacity since being elected to the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital Board of Directors in 1978 and Finger Lakes Heath system board in 1998 when Soldiers & Sailors affiliated with Geneva Regional Health System, forming Finger Lakes Health. She has served Finger Lakes Health Foundation board member since its inception in 1984. She served as an active member or highly engaged honorary health system or foundation board member for more than 43 years. 

“Corry was gracious and smart and kind. She was a bright light, so dedicated and a loyal and generous philanthropist. The health system has lost one of our own and we deeply mourn the passing of Penn Yan’s First Lady and one of Finger Lakes Health’s most committed community leaders and patrons.”

Amy Storey, Keuka College president, says it’s hard to overstate how much Corry and Don Stork meant to Keuka College. The Stork family’s commitment to the college spans three generations, and when the college established a community service award in 1991 to recognize outstanding individuals who exemplify the college’s commitment to individual initiative for the common good, the Storks were the first honorees and the award was subsequently named for them. 

“It’s so telling—and so appropriate—that Keuka College’s most prestigious annual award for public service is the Donald & Corrine Stork Community Service Award,” said Storey, adding, “Corry and Don didn’t just practice community service, they defined it.”

Due to COVID restrictions, Corry’s family has chosen to have a private funeral service.  The service can be viewed online Saturday, Sept. 12 at 10 a.m. at www.facebook.com/ourladyofthelakescc. There will be no calling hours, but a reception to celebrate Corry’s life will be scheduled in 2021.

Contributed by Gwen Chamberlain