A graduate of Clackamas High School, Gary Cornelius edited the college paper at Clackamas Community College and wrote for The Oregonian and the Enterprise Courier before he ran off to Alaska, where he drove a cab on the night shift in Anchorage. “My passengers were hookers, airline pilots, drunks, little old ladies and dancers,” he says. “I loved Alaska.” He also became a father, and after he and his daughter’s mother broke up, he moved back to Oregon as a single dad, looking for work. “I started as a receptionist at Clackamas County Mental Health,” says Cornelius, who soon moved on to a clinical position. “I worked with patients on practical matters.” He worked in mental health for four years in Clackamas County and three years in Klamath County before moving to Eugene, where he worked 14 years in mental health, then eight years in developmental disability services. He retired in 2010 at age 55. “It’s the youngest I could retire with a pension,” he explains. “I wanted to get into the Peace Corps.” Later this month, he will fly to Philadelphia, then to South Africa, for a two-year Peace Corps assignment as an HIV outreach worker. Cornelius has maintained writing skills by way of frequent op-eds in EW, the R-G, and The Oregonian. Last March, he published a novel, Crashing Through the Underbrush, concerning the struggles of a county mental health worker in Oregon. Learn about the book and follow the author’s African adventures on his website, garycornelius.com. His dog Carly will stay behind with his daughter Megan and her three kids in Cottage Grove.