If there’s work to be done, Rusty Cornwell will be the first in line. Whether he’s working a ranch, teaching a veteran to shoot skeet or whipping up donuts at the crack of dawn, Rusty doesn’t look the other way.

He expects he will work with the same urgency and intensity when he’s elected to the District 6 seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He will be polite and courteous when he asks for your vote.

That’s Rusty — tireless worker, successful businessman, country gentleman.

Putting in a good day’s work, sometimes from 2 a.m. to 8 p.m., is Rusty’s definition of success. He does what has to be done at the family donut shop and then moves on to the family’s commercial hunting business. 

All my life, I’ve just done something because it needed to be done. You have a challenge in front of you and you do it
— Rusty

There are big challenges facing Oklahoma and Rusty is willing to get his hands dirty to help. First and foremost, he wants to help fix the state’s budget crisis. Secondly, he will look out for small business owners and stand against over-regulation. He will always fight for the right to bear arms, and for teachers to make a fair wage. 

“I’m ready to go to work,” Rusty said.

Family life

Rusty and Sherri have been married 33 years. They are partners in business and in life.

They own a Daylight Donuts shop in Vinita and Trails End Sanctuary, a commercial hunt area just west of Vinita. The Cornwells introduced northern genetic whitetail deer on their 1,140 acres in 1993. Hunters also find elk, rams and exotics in the hunt area. A lodge on site sleeps up to 20 hunters or guests.

The lodge at Trails End Sanctuary is the family gathering place for the Cornwells’ two daughters and five grandchildren. Rusty’s two sisters and their families come for the holidays. Sherri cooks and when the dishes are done, everyone fishes, shoots skeet or rides ATVs. The sanctuary really is a sanctuary for Rusty.

“I love to be out in the woods as the sun comes up. It’s dead quiet and you can hear birds chirping, deer rustling in leaves, all of creation come to life. It’s incredible and it’s where I feel most alive,” Rusty said. “It’s a God thing for me. You can’t sit there and witness that and not know there’s a higher power at work.”

Rusty spends a lot of time with his grandfather, Oscar Evans, 94, of Joplin, Mo. He was and is a big influence, and Rusty can recall the stories he tells of serving in both World War II and Korea. Rusty’s paternal grandfather, Marvin Cornwell, also served in World War II. It was the service of both grandfathers that led Rusty to get involved with Wounded Warriors and Purple Heart recipients. Rusty feels it is the least he can do.

Honoring those who served

Rusty has grown to appreciate so much about the Vinita area, especially the good folks who are passionate about taking care of others. When the Cornwells host a hunt for Wounded Warriors or Purple Heart recipients, they put out a call for volunteers and more neighbors than needed turn up to help out.

Rusty and Sherri work with veterans at the hunting area, giving them something to look forward to, something to share in, and sometimes, a reason to go on.

“If you bring in a veteran, put a firearm in his hand, it gives him something he feels like he’s lost, perhaps left on the battlefield,” Rusty said.

Rusty is a sponsor member of The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors (FEW), Whitetails of Oklahoma, Vinita Rotary Club and Vinita Chamber of Commerce.

Giving it his all

As for the race for the state House, Rusty said he will give it his all, just like he did as a young runner on the track team.

“We were 100 yards behind when I got the baton. I took off and gave it everything and passed out at the end of the race. When I woke up, I found out we didn’t win but I was the big story for giving it everything.

“That’s just what I’ll do as your next state representative — I’ll give it all I’ve got.”