Derek Cornell


Derek Cornell passed away unexpectedly of natural causes Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 in Key West, Florida. He was 63 years old, and a resident of Manchester Center, Vermont, and Key West, Florida. Derek is survived by his wife, Katherine Cornell, daughter Caroline Cornell, her partner Daniel Logan; his father, Stephen Wood Cornell; sister Erin Kaukas, her husband Martin; brother Gavin, his wife Meg Cornell; sister Greer Cornell, her husband Charlie Mench; nieces Perri and Ali Kaukas; nephews Adin and Cruz Cornell; as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. Derek is predeceased by his mother Joan Cornell and nephews Sean and Raef Cornell.

Derek was born May 27, 1957 in Mount Kisco, New York. He lived in Carmel, New York until age 6. His family moved to Manchester Village, Vermont to open the Reluctant Panther Inn. Derek grew up at the inn. After graduating Burr and Burton Seminary in 1975, Derek entered the building world working with his uncle, Peter Cornell.

Derek spent months on and off in Big Pine Key, helping his parents build and open one of the first bed-and-breakfasts in the Keys, the Barnacle. In 1985, he started his construction company, Big Pine Builders in Vermont. Derek, with his loyal and skilled work crew, built countless custom homes of different sizes and styles. He enjoyed discussing his creative ideas with his father, Woody. He connected with and was admired by his clients for more than 35 years for “conceiving, designing, drafting, organizing, managing and constructing homes.”.

Derek met his wife, Kathy, in Manchester, Vermont whom he loved, traveled, dreamed and built a life with, for 35 years. Their only child, Caroline, was born in 1990. A devoted father, and adored by his daughter, with his family Derek traveled around the country, to the Caribbean and to many other countries.

Derek had many interests that he shared with family and friends. He enjoyed sailing/boating, scuba diving, riding motorcycles, skiing, snowmobiling, flying model airplanes he built, and “gardening.” He started a wind and solar business, another one of his many interests. He knew how to operate every tool, even the big rigs. Derek was an avid reader, acquiring vast amounts of knowledge he shared. A mentor to many, Derek always lent a helping hand. If you didn’t know him, you soon would as he liked to strike up a conversation, introducing himself; a new friend.

Over the years, Derek and Kathy built a beautiful home up on “the hill,” in Manchester. After many years of vacationing in the Keys and visiting family, as planned, Derek closed his business at 60 years old. They then moved to Key West for the winters, devoting most of their time to renovating their second home. Together they bought a boat, and enjoyed the sunshine with family and friends. Derek often walked to White Street Pier, joining his Uncle Peter, Kate and cousin Jennifer Cornell, along with friends for sunrise. Derek and Kathy went on frequent trips to the ice cream and coffee shops, walking their pup, Lola and could be found with their daughter, Caroline during sound checks at the Green Parrot Bar.

Derek lived a full life. He will be greatly missed. We have many wonderful memories to cherish. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date in 2021 in Vermont. We look forward to sharing memories and stories of Derek!

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