By Bonnie Culverhouse
For years he was known as Mister Joe who served ice cream to the children of Webster Parish, the man who helped grieving families at Benevolent Funeral Home and the one who helped start Black History observations locally.
But he’s also been known as Councilman Cornelius in two districts and City of Minden Mayor Cornelius, as well as Deputy Cornelius with the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Department. Over the past 5 years, he has been Deputy Ward Marshal Cornelius.
Now, he will be known as Joe Cornelius, retired.
“Of all those jobs, this is my favorite one,” Cornelius said of the Marshal’s office. “After Randy Shelley left and Danny (Weaver) came in, well, he’s the best boss you could ever have.”
Cornelius was hired by former Marshal Shelley.
“Do you remember our phone call that night, after the election?” Shelley asked Cornelius. “I had to twist your arm a little bit, but it was the best decision I ever made.”
When Shelley retired, Cornelius continued to work under Weaver.
“When I came to work as Marshal in 2019, Joe had no idea what to expect from me, and I had no idea what to expect from him or how he was going to handle the job,” Weaver said. “Joe has been more than a deputy employee. He’s been a friend and like part of our family.”
Weaver said Cornelius helped him considerably when he first became Marshal.
“He’s just a super nice person,” Weaver said. “He’s polite to everyone he comes in contact with. He was just what I was looking for when I came over here.”
Cornelius worked not only with Shelley, but he followed 17-year veteran deputy marshal Billy Hawkins.
“Joe is a super nice person,” Hawkins said. “We went to school together. He left and went to New York City but came back home. We’ve been in a lot of activities together. I’ve been knowing him a long time.”
The public servant always had a heart for young people and spearheaded an organization called Concerned Citizens of Minden that planned and executed activities designed to keep young people off the streets.
That was more than 27 years ago.
“I love kids, you know?” Cornelius said. “We started out with 600 kids. We took them to the lake to swim and fish.”
By charging $1 per person to enter sponsored dances, Concerned Citizens was able to award college scholarships to a number of local youth.
Cornelius recently lost his wife, Jacqueline, and his decision to retire was partially based on that.
“But I can’t just stay at home,” Cornelius said. “I want to kick off Concerned Citizens again. It’s an important need in our community.”
Weaver said he will also be calling on Cornelius when the other deputy marshals are out for illness or vacation.
“He’ll still be around,” Weaver said.
Cornelius said he may go fishing, but Weaver said he’s doubtful.
“He couldn’t catch a fish in a stocked pond,” Weaver said of Cornelius. “So fishing when he retires is out of the question.”
He will continue his work at Mt. Zion CME Church.
And he even might start selling ice cream again.
A retirement party was held at the Marshal’s Office Wednesday. Cornelius’ son, daughter-in-law, sister, great-nephew and dear friend (who is like a sibling) stopped in to surprise him.
Weaver presented Cornelius with a plaque and the office held a large sit-down dinner party for him.