Ronald R. Cornell, chairman of ABC Companies, unexpectedly passed away in his sleep on Aug. 10 at his home in Windermere, Fla. At press time, the cause of death had not been disclosed.
Cornell, 55, and his brother Dane learned about the bus industry at an early age from their parents and ABC founders Norma and Clarence “Clancy” Cornell.
Clancy began building what would become ABC at the age of 20 when he purchased Boone Bus Service in Boone, Iowa, and retired for the first time in 1970, leaving Ron and Dane in charge.
The elder Cornell wasn’t quite done in the industry, however, and shelved his retirement to develop the ABC bus and sales service facility in Winter Garden, Fla., launching the company nationally.
In 1987, the Cornells broke into new-coach sales by forming an agreement with the Van Hool family of Belgium, making ABC the distributor of Van Hool coaches in the U.S. Ron became president and CEO, while Dane was named executive vice president, in 1997 when their father again retired.
Ron had also served on the American Bus Association’s board of directors since 2002, as well as the Trailways board, and was well known throughout the motorcoach industry for his stoic leadership of one of the industry’s leading commercial bus distributors, as well as for his dedicated commitment and valued contributions to numerous industry events.
“Ron was a special guy, a real leader with a big heart,” said Victor S. Parra, president/CEO of the United Motorcoach Association. “He helped a lot of operators struggle through some of the dark days following the 9/11 tragedy. He will be greatly missed by everyone in our industry.”
A private family service was held in Clermont, Fla., on Aug. 16, and a memorial will be created in his honor. Details were not yet available at press time.
In the interim, Clancy Cornell, ABC founder and chairman emeritus, will assume the role of chairman, and Dane Cornell will continue to oversee day-to-day operations as president/CEO.
The family has requested that all memorials be sent to The Hazelden Foundation, c/o Silkworth Patient Aid Fund, P.O. Box 11, Center City, MN 55012.