Gloria Skeen Cornell, founder of no-kill cat shelter, dies at 76

A catThe Courier's own Mr. Kitty (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Mark Woolsey

A Cobb County woman who broke new ground for animal rescue organizations locally has died.

The Good Mews Animal Foundation announced that Gloria Skeen Cornell passed away July 11 at age 76. The non-profit rescue begun in Cornell’s home in 1988 was the first cage-free, no-kill cat shelter in metro Atlanta.

Cornell’s desire to rescue animals stemmed from an animal abuse case the Illinois native witnessed early in life said Elizabeth Finch, president-elect of the foundation’s board of directors. She vowed to one day do what she could to counter it.

Finch said Cornell’s drive to start the rescue years later seemed fated.

Working as a Delta Airlines flight attendant and living in a townhome off Cobb Parkway, she adopted two stray cats about a year apart and named them Sara and Emily.

Sometime later, she said Cornell got a call from an attorney who told her a distant relative had died and left her an inheritance.

“She thought it was a scam at first, “said Finch. “She checked it out and sure enough it was a distant relative and she was one of the only surviving heirs.” Finch said she used the money to begin Good Mews.

“The interesting was that the name of the woman (who left her the money) was Sarah Emily,” she added.

Starting in a building on Sandtown Road, the facility pulled up stakes a couple of times and settled into its current digs on Robinson Road in 2014.

The physical location may have changed multiple times, her admirers indicate, but Cornell’s caring nature and determination to do right by homeless felines never altered, despite juggling the work of building the foundation, its volunteer base and its funding sources with maintaining her Delta career.

The results speak volumes. The limited-admission facility has adopted out more than 11 thousand cats in its almost 35 years.

“Her strength and her ability to overcome obstacles were things I always admitted about her,” said the president-elect.

She said that their founder was inspired by a similar rescue operation in Chicago. She visited there to check it out and ultimately used it as a template for Good Mews.

Finch said the resulting free-roaming Mews operation was designed in such a way as to encourage socialization and make cats comfortable in their environment so that those adopted out would get a more favorable start with their owners.

Expansion is on the horizon. The organization’s strategic plan over the next few years includes increasing capacity for spay/neuter and adoption operations and bringing low-cost services to underserved communities.

All that from two strays nosing around outside a home and an unexpected phone call.

Finch says that Cornell left “an extraordinary legacy and her impact will live on long behind her years on this Earth.”