Jerry Michael “Mike” Cormack

A visitation for Jerry Michael “Mike” Cormack, 83, Lawrence, will be 9-10:30 am, Saturday, September 7, 2019, at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Mike Cormack passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Mike enjoyed a long life filled with love both given and received.

He was born in Rossville, Kansas on September 3, 1936, the oldest child of Walter Vernon Cormack and Leona Emily (Williamson) Cormack. He lived in Rossville for the first few years of his life, then moved with his family to Topeka, Kansas. Shortly after the outbreak of WWII, he and his mother and younger brother Tom lived briefly in Greenville, South Carolina, and then with his grandparents in Nebraska City, Nebraska. He had fantastic stories that he would tell his sons over and over about growing up in Nebraska City while his father was stationed overseas. Many of those stories were about his Irish grandmother who had an enormous influence on his life.

After the war the family moved back to Topeka, where he lived for nearly 20 years, and where he met his future wife, Shirley Rae (Absher) Cormack. After graduating from Topeka High School they were married on April 8, 1956. They lived in Topeka until moving briefly to Mobile, Alabama and then quickly back to Topeka. They have three sons, Michael Shawn Cormack, Jonathan Patrick Cormack, and Timothy Joseph Cormack. Mike and Shirley were very happily married for over 63 years.

After graduating from high school Mike joined the Kansas National Guard, B Company, 174th Military Police Battalion and served for eight years and eight months before being discharged. He worked as a draftsman for the Topeka City Engineers then the Topeka County Regional Planing Commision becoming a Junior Planner and Chief Draftsman. Although excelling as a draftsman, Mike decided he wanted to be a teacher. He received both his undergraduate degree (1964) and master’s degree (1969) from Washburn University, and then taught 5th and 6th grades at Whitson elementary school from 1964–1968. In 1969 the family moved to Rossville where he was the principal of Rossville and Delia elementary schools from 1969–1975. In 1975 the family moved to Lawrence, Kansas where Mike was principal at East Heights elementary school (1975–1978), and then Kennedy elementary (1978–1986). He returned to teaching and finished his career as an 8th grade english and history teacher at Central Junior High from 1986–1996.

As a result of his passion for teaching, he had a positive effect on countless students over his many years in education. Since his retirement, many former students have told him of the effect he had on their lives, a kind compliment and evidence of a life well lived. Mike was a kind, generous, and compassionate person, who showed endless love for his family. These positive qualities served him well after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Mike had a rich inner life that he expressed through story telling, a trait he picked up from his Irish grandmother, and also in acting. He, Shirley, and their youngest son Tim were in many community theater productions both in Lawrence and Topeka. Another passion of Mike’s was his love of automobiles. He restored antique cars most of his adult life, and the list of cars he owned and restored is extensive. Mike and Shirley have been members of antique car clubs in Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City. Mike also expressed his artistic abilities in drawing, painting, singing, and an eye for good design, many of those traits he passed down to his children and grandchildren.

He is survived by his wife Shirley (Lawrence), younger brother Thomas Joseph Cormack (Topeka), sons Mike (Lawrence), Jon and wife Janie (Knoxville, Tennessee) Tim (Lawrence), and grandchildren Emily Jill Cormack (New York City) Anna Marvelle Cormack (Chicago), Jordan Riley Cormack and wife Katie, Rachel Marie (Cormack) Duplantis and husband Brandon, and Rebekah Michelle Cormack (Knoxville). The family wishes to thank the staff of Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Douglas County Visiting Nurses for the invaluable care and support they provided.

Memorial contributions may be made to Visiting Nurses, sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Indiana Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

Messages & Condolences

From Cindy Reynolds Owen...

I am so sorry for your loss. Mr. Cormack was my sixth grade teacher at Whitson in Topeka. He was my favorite teacher! He had a way of making the classroom fun and interesting. Many memories came back to me when I saw of his death. I was glad he was in my life for that short period of time.

From Rae (Smith) Evans...

Mr Cormack was a wonderful teacher, a kind man and a beautiful soul. I only knew him for a short time many years ago when I was a student at CJHS, but he left a lasting imprint on my life. Thank you Mr Cormack for being you. Condolences to your family.

From Shirley Cormack...

It warms my heart to read all the wonderful words written by you who knew him. Thank you. And I agree with everything you’ve said.

From Philip Muller...

I have great memories of Mr Cormack and the stories he would tell. Prayers for his family

From Sandee Rose...

Mr. Cormack holds a special place in my heart. He was the best principal RGS ever had. My condolences to his entire family

From Leslie Guild Kelly...

Mr. Cormack was my fifth grade teacher at Whitson Elementary in 1967. We did wonderful things. We made a movie from a script we wrote. We learned about discrimination by not being able to play with or talk to those with green eyes. Mr. Cormack made a door decoration of Maude, a character made famous by Jonathan Winters, and I got to take it home. Mr. Cormack solved my tears several times that year too. He was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person. I’m lucky to have had him in my life. Blessings to his family.

From Robert Edwards...

He was the principal at Kennedy when I attended the fourth grade. Later on, he was teaching at Central Junior High School at the same time I went to school there. I always remember him being a very happy man, he always had a smile on his face and a kind word for the students. Rest in peace Mr. Cormack, you will be missed.

From Jan Twemlow...

Mr. Cormack was my fifth grade teacher at Whitson. He was a kind, compassionate man. I look back and I was going through rough times, and I now know he recognized that and helped me through that year. Excellent Educator!!

From Carrie Baecht (Carrie Eldridge)...

I had the pleasure of having him as a principal at Kennedy when i was there as a student. He was such a wonderful person to be around. Wonderful personality. He will truly be missed.

From Peggy Shrake Hinck...

I was so lucky! Mr. Cormack taught my class in both 5th and 6th grade at Whitson. What a good role model, too. He taught life lessons as well as lived them in his own life. Thanks for your lessons, Mr. Cormack, hopefully, I have continued to live and pass your teachings on to my children and grand children. God Bless You.

From Мария...

Здравствуйте, что то не совсем я поняла как это?

From Jocelyn Shoup/Brown...

I am so fortunate to have spent time with him at Kennedy school. He was a wonderful role model, a GREAT Principal and always made us laugh and smile. I remember spending one summer in summer school, and there was a small group of us that would all play the board game “Payday” with him. Even though this did not fall into the rules of the school. He did it to teach some life’s lesson’s and to make summer/school fun. He was a wonderful man and my thoughts and prayers are with the family. He has made a HUGE impact on many lives…

From Coach Kay (Keisha Rhodes)...

Wow. This man was definitely a light in dark places. During an age I experienced so much negativity and racism. He definitely gave me hope and gave me a new understanding of rising to the occasion. It is funny that he was a role model for my East Heights, Kennedy and Central Jr. High years. My first 13 years of life. My brain development years…I am so thankful that I did have a God send chosen to influence my character. He showed me mercy and compassion during a time most did not based on my skin complexion. I am truly grateful. May you live forever and be loved the way you have loved or greater. Truly worthy. 💋

From Mike Hughes...

“Oh once I was afraid to swim, the water made me wince; until Pa said, ‘You mustn’t swim’…been swimmin’ ever since.”

I was supposed to sing that for a play in grade school but got a terrible case of stage fright. Mr. Cormack was not only my 6th grade principal but my elementary drama teacher as well. During my moment of weakness, this amazing man stood by my side, held me and said quietly to me, “Let’s do it together.”

I am 47 now and that moment of sincerity has stuck with me for all these years. Every time I fear speaking or singing I simply think of Mr. Cormack and power through with the overwhelming feeling he is telling me we can do this together.

I was a class clown then, but Mr. C saw something better in me I didn’t even know was inside. It takes a great person to be an educator but Kennedy Elementary had that and so much more in its leader. It saddens me to hear of his passing but it warms me to reminisce the kind of man he was in my life. R.I.P. Mr. C!

From Carrie (Daniels) Werst...

I remember Mr Cormack very well and really enjoyed him at Kennedy. He was always kind and funny. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers to your family.

From Catherine Williams...

I worked with Mike at Central Jr. High. His manner and smile lit up the atmosphere there. He was a teacher who could engage students in learning. I feel so lucky that I had an opportunity to work with Mike.

From Patrick Shoup...

My heart goes out to Mike’s family. He was truly one of a kind. He was the single most influential teacher/principle I had. We love you Mr. Cormack.

From Shamira Thurston...

I only knew you for a few years nearly 30 years ago but I still to this day think about the words you shared with me. I will never forget it and promise to make you proud one day! RIP Sir

From Diane Stoddard...

Mr. Cormack was a very special principal during my years at Kennedy. I recall how wonderful he was during the passing of our wonderful third grade teacher Mrs. Longren and how he made all of the students feel special. His humor and smile was contagious! My condolences.

From Stephanie McGinnis...

Sorry to hear of Mike’s passing, he was an important part of Rossville Grade School during my time there. Prayers for all of you.

From Lanette (Schmid) Kielbasa...

I will never forget his timing of joining us at Kennedy, my grade in particular was in the midst of losing one of our dear teachers…he stepped in and helped a group of 3rd and 4th graders through a very hard time. I also remember him dressing as the Hunchback of Notre Dame gory Halloween, and keeping people laughing at PTA meetings and programs. He always treated us students with kindness…my thoughts to your entire family.

From Mary Lou Almanza...

In my message earlier I meant to type thoughts and prayers (not parent) for Mike’s wife and family at this difficult time!

From Mary Lou Almanza...

So sorry to hear of Mike passing away! I had the opportunity to work with him while he taught at Central Jr. High. He was always friendly and took the time to chat. I was the Guidance Secretary/Registrar at CJHS when Mike taught there. Thoughts and parents for his wife and family at this difficult time! He will be missed! Rest In Peace, Mike!

From Walt Haworth...

To Mike, Jon, & Tim–i cant believe your dad was older than my parents! My thoughts and prayers are with you during this tough time. To Shirley–He was a very good educator and I am priveleged to have known him. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this unbelievable time in your life.

From Walt Haworth...

To Mike, Jon, & Tim–i cant believe your dad was older than my parents! My thoughts and prayers are with you during this tough time. To Shirley–He was a very good educator and I am priveleged to have known him. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this unbelievable time in your life.

From Tina (Rose) Roseberry...

Mr. Cormack left a good impression on everyone he met, in my opinion. I remember him coming in the rooms to read stories to us. He wanted to be involved in the students daily schooling and it showed. I don’t recall him ever having a frown on his face. He seemed to really enjoy his work with children and I am thankful I had him as a principle, at Kennedy Grade school. I am so sad to hear of his passing and my sincere sympathies to his family. He will truly be missed by all that had the pleasure and blessings, to have known him.

From Sarah Connor...

Mr. Cormack was a genius and a source of strength and inspiration to all who knew him! May he rest in blessed peace. He deserves it after beinf my principal. Much love to the family and others who, i know, feel this loss.

From Michelle Dumler...

You made each of us at Kennedy feel like the most special kid in the world. That big heart, your laugh, and your stories have stayed with me all these years. I even retell some stories to my son now. My heart breaks for your family, and I know the world was a better place because you were an educator.

From Tracy Rose...

Your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with me forever. You were EXACTLY the type of principal/teacher that EVERY child should have in their life. You made a difference in my life and I will forever remember the many things you taught me. RIP my friend.

Please Share Your Message & Condolences

*All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.