The Legacies of Two Great Men

The Brookstone community lost two incredibly dear and influential members this summer: Mr. Charles J. Cumiskey and Mr. Bill Turner. The impact these two men had on the Brookstone community and the Columbus community at large, cannot be overstated. It is with heavy, but grateful, hearts that we remember their lives and their legacies.

Catherine Trotter, one of our long time faculty members, made these remarks to new faculty at the beginning of the year:

Two individuals whose influence and impact played an important role in establishing the culture of Brookstone passed away this summer.  Former Head of School, Charlie Cumiskey, and Brookstone Trustee Emeritus, Bill Turner, contributed significantly to the formation of our school.  They both understood that we were about building relationships and changing lives.  They both were visionaries and they knew when you reach a goal, you have to raise the bar or you risk losing the vision.  They both valued the students. Mr. C has been quoted as saying he “never met a bad kid”, and Mr. Turner once said, “education of the head is not enough without education of the heart.” They both looked for the best in every student, and that is what we need to do too.  

Charlie Cumiskey’s family called him “the greatest man who ever lived.” Mr. Cumiskey was the Headmaster of Brookstone School from 1980-1992. He was a fixture on campus for decades, even up until the time of his passing. He was completely devoted and committed to our school, our students and our families. He could be seen walking the track daily for exercise and he was at practically every single sporting or academic event he could possibly attend. He was synonymous with Brookstone and he was loved by all.

Upon his retirement from Brookstone in 1992, the Board of Directors recognized his outstanding contribution in every aspect of the school and added, 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”.

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Charlie Cumiskey with his wife, Eileen.

Marty Lester, Brookstone’s current Head of School, said in remarks to our faculty,  “Charlie’s lasting legacy is that we get to work at this school, one that places so much emphasis on relationships – ours, with our students, with our school community. It is our strength, our core, and it is something we don’t merely hold onto, we allow it to grow, to flourish. As it grows, as it strengthens, so does the richness of our experience and that of our students.” 


The Cumiskey Family celebrating the groundbreaking of the Mary Lynne Smisson Cumiskey Tennis Complex.

Former student, Toy Savage, writes in his blog, The Savage Chronicles

Some time ago, in making remarks to a group of alumni when he was present, I called him “the best teacher I ever had.”  I watched the tears come to his eyes.  There it is.  Forty years later, praise from a former student about his qualities as a teacher can make him emotional.  That’s why we love you, Mr. Cumiskey.  You always cared. You still do.

Mr. Cumiskey, you will be missed. Thank you for all you did for Brookstone School. Your legacy will long be remembered and lived out in the lives of future generations.

The second individual we lost this summer was Mr. Bill Turner. Like Mr. Cumiskey, there are not adequate words to express his devotion to Brookstone school and the significant impact he had on our culture.

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“Mr. William B. Turner, as most of you know, was a giant. He has shown me what one person can do to make the lives of others better,” said Mr. Lester. “His influence extends to every corner of our campus. Mr. Turner believed in servant leadership, and our program today would not be what it is without his wisdom, foresight, and generosity. I have learned that those things are mere examples of how he lived his life. “

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Cindy Sparks, former director of our Servant Leadership department, wrote these words just before the start of the school year.

With the passing of Mr. Bill Turner this past week, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on Mr. Turner’s contributions to Brookstone and how his influence has truly shaped the culture of Brookstone.  Many of his gifts to Brookstone did not come with his name attached and many of us will never know the magnitude of his influence.  He directly brought and funded the Honor Scholars Program, Servant Leadership, and the opportunity for Emergenetics at Brookstone and so much more.  His founding of the Pastoral Institute has provided for free counseling for all employees.  For many years he provided a Guideposts subscription to all Brookstone and Muscogee County teachers.  The list of his generous gifts to Brookstone is so long.

We have indeed lost a hero and it is now our responsibility to continue his legacy through our attitudes and efforts.  Mr. Turner said it is all about love, kindness, relationships and being present.  I am reminded of many gems that he mentions in his book, The Learning of Love, A Journey toward Servant Leadership.  As we consider our culture, he would advise that we stay away from the “Deadly P’s”: Pride, Prejudice, Position, Popularity, Possessions, Power.  He would encourage us to remember that Commitment produces Caring, which produces Compassion, which produces Communication, which produces Creativity ,which produces Common Vision, which produces Community.

 It is my hope that as we begin this school year and focus on the Brookstone culture, we will honor Mr. Turner’s love for Brookstone by emulating his attitudes and approach to living.  In so many ways, we are where we are today because of him and I hope that we will keep his influence alive! 

Thank you, Mr. Turner, for the countless lives you touched, for the generosity you poured out on our community, for the way you modeled servant leadership for our school – not just as a leadership buzz-word, but as a lifestyle of humble service to others. Your legacy cannot be overstated.

To these men and their families, we thank you. We thank you on behalf of generations of Brookstone students and THEIR families. Brookstone simply would not be the school it is today without Mr. Cumiskey and Mr. Turner. The way they lived their lives with integrity, empathy, and strength, their dedication to serving and loving others well, and their commitment to seeing the best in people…These things have become ingrained in the Brookstone culture.

To say thank you does not seem adequate. You have set the bar high. But we are truly, truly grateful. You are loved and you are missed.







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1 Comment »

  1. I unfortunately did not know Mr. Turner but Mr. Cumiskey was one of the most honorable and gentle men I have ever met in my life. The world is better because of him…


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