Samuel Hudson Cornthwaite

Samuel Hudson Cornthwaite passed away suddenly after falling ill to acute pancreatitis on Sept 6, 2016, in a Beijing, China hospital, with his sister Hannah by his side. Sam was born July 3, 1990, and grew up in Petersburg,  Alaska. In 2001, he made the move with his parents to Montana, attending Petersburg Elementary school and then Shields Valley Schools, where he graduated in 2008.

As you look back on his short 26 years of life, he always had an interest in people and fishing. At a very young age he was known to be able to keep conversations going with kids younger or way older than him.

Whenever he disappeared in a store, you could always find him in the fishing tackle aisle, talking with someone about the boats in the harbor (which he knew the name of every one and what kind of boat it was) or what hutchie or lure to use when fishing.

Sam loved the outdoors and all the adventures it had to offer. Though he did enjoy being on the swim team, wrestling and football, his love was fishing and he would rather be close to the water.

He accepted Jesus into his heart at age 4 and loved watching Christian programs, and was known to stand in front of his friends and preach. Many friendships and memories were blessed by the love and interests Sam had growing up. If you were his friend, you were a friend for life; he truly and deeply cared about you.

Partnered with integrity and drive, he would reveal in high school he was a gifted individual when it came to being business minded and a resourceful thinker. He was mentored by Tom Morgan, formerly of Winston Fly Rods, and started a successful fly rod building business — Shields River Rods — at the age of 15. Sam made rods to sell, but also donated a lot of them to charities and fundraisers, combining his passion for fishing and his love for people. He spent several years teaching youth casting, fly rod building and fly-tying for the Fly Fishing Federation Conclave and for the Sons of Norway Heritage and cultural camp each year.

He was an active member of the Shields Valley FFA and a 2008-09 State Officer. Sam would travel across Montana and the U.S. by himself or with best friend Chase to hold workshops and give motivational speeches to groups such as the FFA, BPA, city of Billings,

Rocky Mountain College and other individuals and organizations. His Business Parallel 49 Strategies was developed from that calling to help others. Sam also added graphic design and website building into that business. He had several writings published in magazines and had many magazines publish stories on him and his works.

He inspired people to “Give Love, Be Authentic and Serve Wholly and Risk to Grow.”

At Rocky Mountain College and MSU, he studied agriculture and then nonprofit work. He worked closely with St. Vincent Healthcare in developing the fundraising campaign for the HELP Flight MedEvac program.

During his term as an FFA officer, he went with a group on am agricultural tour to China. It was then that his interest in China was sparked. Over the next several years, he would go back and forth to China to teach English/Sunday school in remote villages, worked in orphanages and foster homes, and at times he would take others along with him on his adventures.

Richard Elmore and Sam met working as counselors at Clydehurst Christian Camp one summer. Both had an interest in China and its people.

They came up with a plan to help the marginalized there. Fundraising began with the development of Goodworks. Goodworks began as a mission to “Invest in the Invisible.” The goal was to provide vocational training, education, housing and employment to the marginalized — orphans who were timed out, those with special needs and other at-risk teens and ethnic minorities — to equip them for success. Richard went on to other things, but Sam persevered alone with the vision and moved to China just over a year ago to get everything in motion. As time passed, Goodworks became an established and sustainable organization that supports farmers and communities as well as the latter, fulfilling the mission and vision the founders had in mind. In that short period of time, many lives were changed, not only those in the Beijing Ex Pat business and food and beverage world, everyday people he would meet, those in organizations he partnered with in making Goodworks China a reality. There were people he had never met but had mutual acquaintances or those he only talked to on the phone; so many were impacted by what he set out to do and just how he made them feel or how he helped them in a time of crisis. Sam was always a Life is Good guy, never had a bad thing to say about anyone and made lemonade out of the lemons in his way.

Sam said in an interview with the Beijinger, “I think my call to invest in the orphans comes from my need for purpose. Inside we’re all called to do something, and for me investing in the lives of orphans, the marginalized, just seemed like what I was called to do.” Most of us can understand that feeling of being called to do something, no matter how big or small. Sam did what most of us lack in the courage to do — he confidently pursued this calling.

Sam was driven, committed, dedicated, and he persevered. His work and accomplishments have been noted by fellow entrepreners as “brilliant” and work that is admired. His heart and soul, his love for all people; his genuine concern and interest has saved the lives of some who have been hopeless. He strengthened others, motivated others, and he touched and inspired us all to be better. His legacy will continue to change lives and bless many. He took his love for people and fishing and was a modern-day fisher of men.

We are ever so proud of how he lived his short 26 years of life and will miss everything about him.

There will be a celebration of life held at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at Hope Lutheran Church in Bozeman.

Sam was a member of Hope, taught confirmation classes and was a youth leader there.

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, a celebration of life will be held at the Wilsall Community Church in Wilsall.

We ask in lieu of flowers, donate to Goodworks or in Sam’s name, donate to one of his partner organizations that he was a board member of — Bozeman’s Million Girl Army or Jasper House Haiti.

Sam is survived by his parents, Otto and Debbie, of Wilsall; his sister Hannah, of Beijing, China; and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.