Working in the HR Department, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cory Johnson for the Program Coordinator position. After the interview, I was thinking – who is this guy, and is it too good to be true? It was one of those interviews where someone nails it and you just have to question if this is really good or really not. Was it confidence or smugness? Was it wisdom or balderdash? Humor or rebellion? Sitting here thinking back, the answer is clearly, “yes.” Cory was all those things rolled into one.
During the reference process, I learned that others thought Cory was great at training and energizing others. He was also really good at building teams, and we were soon to learn that he was all those things as well.
Cory was hired on August 27, 2012 and our work lives were never quite the same. It was like that saying, ‘spring came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.’ Only Cory came in like a lion and went out like one, too. It reminds me of the scene from “The Lion King” when Mufasa was standing on the cliff overlooking his world. He stands strong, courageous, and proud, protecting what he loved.
A lion is a sign of strength and courage. Cory was never unwilling to take something on. He was the first to volunteer and often the first to move. He was going to ‘get-er-done,’ and obstacles didn’t matter. For me his lesson was the courage to act. If I felt apprehensive I’d ask him what he would do. He had this way of leading until you were able to go on your own, and he’d hang back waiting to make sure you were safe. And then he’d lick his paws with a Cheshire grin as if to take all the credit.
One thing about Cory is we always knew when he was proud. When proud of himself, he would strut about like a surly cat. But equally, he let it be known when he was proud of someone else and took time to let you know when he saw good things. His field of vision was his team and his members. Sometimes those outside that field were viewed as predators, and he was quick to protect what was his. To those on his field, he was loyal; and in return, he commanded respect and hard work. He was quick to bite if he thought you were out of line. He’d pounce and roar and let you know. Yes, Cory could be fierce, but in reality, he was just as fierce in fun. It’s so interesting that now that we all have started to compare notes, Cory really just took care of each of us in his own way. He was so strong till the end. His body weakened, but he rarely let his spirit flicker. He kept saying he needed us, but really, we needed him just as much.
Cory came in like a lion, and we didn’t know what to think! And through wisdom, humor, sarcasm and a couple of expletives, he showed us how to be proud, strong, courageous, and loyal. Much like Mufasa said in the movie, “and so we are all connected in the great circle of life,” Cory was, in some way, connected to everyone here at Mainstream. He touched the lives of many and made us better. Our jungle will never the same without him, and I am grateful for the time we had.