It is the story of a life well-lived, and Jerry Cornell’s children – Barbie, Susan and Andrew – are proud of the champion snooker and billiards player’s legacy, including the recent donation of his prized full-size billiard table to the Mildura RSL. Photograph: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

IN a moving ceremony attended by a large number of members at the Mildura RSL last week, an elaborately-made plaque was unveiled in honour of Jerry Cornell (dec.) – the former proprietor of Cornell’s Sports Store and local champion snooker and billiards player.

The plaque overlooks a beautifully preserved and recently refurbished full-size billiard table which belonged to Mr Cornell and was recently relocated from his former home to the RSL, where it is now used by the Club’s snooker playing members. 

Originally the table was located in the ‘Langtree Hall’ snooker room at the rear of Cornell’s sports store, which was a popular destination for devotees of the game and would-be champions.

Mr Cornell’s three children, Barbie, Susan and Andrew, were in attendance for the ceremony, and took pleasure in unveiling the plaque, which was covered by a White Ensign (Naval flag).

In producing the plaque, the RSL, with the assistance of Mr Cornell’s son Andrew, created a fitting tribute to the man whose name was synonymous with snooker and billiards in Sunraysia.

Mr Cornell was also a returned serviceman, who served his country in the Navy during WW2, with the plaque featuring a picture of him in his uniform aged just 17. 

A duplicate set of his service medals, photos of Mr Cornell playing snooker, and details of his war service and snooker-playing career, were also included in the plaque.

Mildura RSL CEO, Kim Archibald, who conducted the unveiling ceremony, said it was wonderful to be able to honour Jerry’s memory.

“He was an icon at the RSL, not only because of his Naval service history, but also of course for his billiard and snooker playing prowess,” he said. “He really was an icon in the billiards and snooker world here in Mildura for many years, and so it’s a great honour for the Club to be able to bestow this tribute to his family tonight.

“Many would know the history of Langtree Hall, the snooker room at the rear of Cornell’s sports store, and recently the club was fortunate to acquire this fabulous billiard table from the Cornell family.

“We thought it would be fitting to honour Jerry’s memory by unveiling this plaque, which will now take pride of place on the wall overlooking his favourite billiard table, whose home is now at the RSL.”

Meticulous refurbishment

Mr Archibald also thanked local craftsman, Don Scales, who he said had done “a very careful and meticulous refurbishment” of the table, fitting new side-cushions and championship cloth.

“The table has been well preserved by Jerry’s family for a long time, and Don has really done a wonderful job in bringing the table here and installing it in pristine condition for players to use and enjoy at the club,” he said.

In a thoughtful gesture, which came as a wonderful surprise to Mr Cornell’s children, the RSL presented the family with an identical copy of the plaque for them to keep.

The family was greatly touched by the gesture, and said they thought it would most likely be hung on the wall in the historical Langtree Hall – which has been transformed into a museum.

Andrew said that while his father played snooker at other clubs in Mildura, the RSL was his favourite venue.

“In later years when he wasn’t playing any more, Susan would bring him down here and he loved to just sit and watch the other players,” he said. “He was always of the opinion that he still could have won if he was allowed to play!

“This is the best thing we could have hoped for to have the table brought down here to the RSL where he liked to play and where he spent so much time.

“Dad always wanted the table to be valued, not just as an antique, but as real table for ordinary players to be able to use. Part of the reason he was so good is that he was a perfectionist, and he was a really good coach too.” 

A coach of champions

Mr Cornell would coach school boys and give them encouragement, with many of the players he taught going on to become district champions.

“A lot of them would have got their start in the snooker room behind the sports store, and he would pick out the ones who were not just having a hit for fun, but who showed great potential, and many of them played for the RSL too,” Andrew said.

Jerry Cornell was also a good golfer who played off single figures, and was an all-round sportsman.

Susan said her father had a wide range of interests, and was one of the founding members of the Mildura and District Motor Cycle Club.

“He used to race powerboats too, and he and his mates were among the first to water ski in Mildura,” she said. “As a family we went snow skiing, which was a bit rare in those days for people from Mildura to do, it was something he liked and he was a good tennis player and he was even a rower.”