Former Brookstone School headmaster Charlie Cumiskey has died.
Cumiskey, 90, was battling a brief illness when he died July 11 while surrounded by family in his Columbus home, according to his obituary.
His funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday in Holy Family Catholic Church, 320 12th St., followed by a private interment at Parkhill Cemetery.
Cumiskey was headmaster of Brookstone for 12 years before retiring in 1992.
“We loved him dearly,” Catherine Trotter, the assistant head of school for institutional advancement, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Friday. “He was the heart and soul of Brookstone School.”
Cumiskey was born Aug. 2, 1926, in Cumberland, Md., where he graduated from LaSalle High School in 1944. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1945-47, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Lynchburg College in 1952 and a master’s degree in education from the College of William and Mary in 1962.
Cumiskey taught and coached at Norfolk (Va.) Academy and was director of the lower school and athletics director from 1952-69. After serving as headmaster of Carlisle School in Martinsville, Va., from 1969-1980, he became headmaster of Brookstone in 1980.
“Mr. C,” as he lovingly was called, transformed Brookstone from “a fledgling school that started in the early Seventies,” said Trotter, who has worked at Brookstone for 37 years. “He knew what a true independent school was and how one functioned.”
Cumiskey launched new programs, including the senior speech, and mounted capital campaigns to improve the campus with projects such as the Turner Center, which contains Brookstone’s auditorium.
“He understood the importance of the arts,” Trotter said.
He also understood the importance of athletics, teaching students “that they could learn from being on a team,” she said.
Most of all, Trotter noted, Cumiskey “valued each and every student. That’s what was so compelling about him. He was the headmaster, but he also was your friend. He showed up at every event. ... He embodied the loyalty part of the Brookstone crest.”
Upon his retirement, according to his obituary, the Brookstone board of directors declared in a proclamation that his “most memorable and lasting contribution to Brookstone will be his belief in the potential of its students, both individually and as a body….and that he leaves Brookstone a far better place than it was when he arrived”.
At every Brookstone graduation, an award in his honor is presented to two seniors, one male and one female, who personify the spirit and integrity he helped build at the school.
While continuing to show his support for Brookstone in retirement, Cumiskey made a positive impact throughout the community. From 1992-96, he was assistant director of Aflac’s Major Markets Division for Education and Healthcare. From 1996-97, he was assistant to the president of Uptown Columbus Inc., and from 1997-2001, he was Columbus State University’s education coordinator for the Teacher Alternative Preparation Program.
He also served in many civic leadership roles. His past positions include: president of Leadership Columbus Alumni, president of the Columbus chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and coordinator of the Columbus Rotary Club’s Star Student Program.
“You couldn’t think of Charlie sitting down,” retired CSU president Frank Brown, who also was headmaster of Brookstone School, told the Ledger-Enquirer in a voicemail Friday. “When you think of Charlie, you think of motion. ... He never seemed to be tired or frustrated. It was always a labor of love, and Charlie was truly loved by the students and faculty at Brookstone School.”
Brown called Cumiskey “a patriot as well as a strong family man and educator. We don’t recognize his impact just yet; it will take time to soak in. He was a fixture, a man of integrity and tremendous energy. … He never saw a stranger and, as he used to say, he never met a bad kid.”
Cumiskey is survived by his wife of 62 years, Elieen Chambers Cumiskey, six children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.