Chris Corna's Memorial Service
Hundreds of friends and family members gathered Sunday to remember Steamboat Springs resident and businessman Chris Corna.
Steamboat Springs Chris Corna was a charmer - a lover of animals and Tom Petty, a great teacher, a tireless adventurer and a heck of a businessman, his friends and family members said.
Hundreds of them gathered Sunday evening between his beloved Slopeside Grill and his beloved snowboarding mountain. They spoke of Corna's sense of humor, generosity and dashing good looks. Corna died May 18 in Port Chester, N.Y.., at age 45.
Lindsey Grannis helped organize the memorial service. She had known Corna since his arrival in Steamboat Springs, when he started working for her as a waiter in 1993 at the Time Out Sports Bar and Grill.
"That smile might have actually brought us all the business we had that winter," Grannis said.
The Time Out Sports Bar later became Slopeside, and Grannis later worked for Corna.
"He was sitting on the deck, and I pulled him aside and I said, 'Would you like to be my assistant manager for the upcoming winter?'" she said. "And he looked me in the eye and said, 'Lindsey, don't tell anyone yet, but I just bought the place. Will you be my manager?'"
Corna also was a University of Florida Gators fan. A college friend, Aaron Youngdahl, told about a Florida-University of Kansas basketball game he attended with Corna. Corna was getting agitated because the team was huddling up, and star center Joakim Noah wasn't participating.
"He stood up in a relatively quiet auditorium and shouted, 'Get in the huddle, Noah!' Sure enough, Noah looked over at him, stood up and got in the huddle," Youngdahl said.
Corna traveled the world with his friends and family. Carlos Vidueira said he and Corna mountain biked in Costa Rica, dove with whale sharks in the Galapagos and fished for marlin off the coast of Africa.
Corna's cousin Brad Webb said his 4-year-old daughter asks him each night to tell "the Chris stories."
But there are too many to recount, Webb said. Corna was the type of person who treated others with generosity and compassion, he said.
"If he were here, and I'm sure he is somewhere, he'd say, 'Well, that sucks. He was a good dude, but that's life, and that's how it goes, so let's move on," Webb said. "And he'd probably crack some mildly inappropriate joke about the situation, and we'd all sort of laugh very nervously, and then we'd move on because he'd want us to be happy and not hurting."
Jeff Kelly, whom Corna called "Roomie," lived with the Ohio native at the University of Florida.
"This is the second hardest thing I've ever had to do. The first was living with Chris Corna," Kelly joked.
His pain showed through, however, when he talked about how he and Corna considered themselves brothers.
Corna was nicknamed "Hollywood," Kelly said. It came about when Corna was working as a waiter at a sorority house. The women loved him, Kelly said.
"They had this big, heavy-set cook named James, and he came in one day and said, 'Man, you are Hollywood,' and it stuck," he said. "That's the truth."
Kelly also shared the memories provided by his 12-year-old daughter, who knew Corna as Uncle Hollywood.
"When he saw a huge bear in his front yard, he decided to scare that bear away by throwing a brick," she wrote. "And he did, and the bear chased him and he lost his shoe. : He kept in touch with old girlfriends, even those he dyed Easter eggs with in college. : He was a mama's boy, and even though he really wanted a motorcycle, he would never get one because his mom didn't want him to get one."
All speakers offered the same message: Chris Corna improved their lives. He made life better for everyone around him, and he was generous with his money and his time.
Corna also loved to tease people.
Mike Maudlin, who worked with him at Slopeside, told a story about a woman who came into the restaurant "dripping in diamonds." Corna looked her over and said, "Well, I'll bet this'll be your first time in a restaurant without a drive-up window."
Corna's generosity was legendary, Maudlin said, recalling the time Corna took his entire staff to Mexico. He also spoke of a trip he and Corna took to see Tom Petty in Jackson Hole, Wyo. A sheriff stopped Corna for going 85 miles per hour.
"As he getting ready to walk away, Chris said, 'How far is it?' and the guy said, 'Oh, about 85, 90 miles.' And Chris said, 'So, about an hour?'" Maudlin said. "The sheriff laughed and said, 'Be safe.'"
Through the tears and the laughter, mourners seemed to be starting their healing process.
"My wish is for his eternal peace and that we may all keep the vivid memories of Chris, who is forever young," Youngdahl said.
Maudlin struck the same chord.
"I once read, 'If my passing has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy,'" Maudlin said. "It's going to be easy."