Sun Day News

By Stew Cohen

For 20 minutes, Kristi Cordle talked to her son, Pierce, on his cell phone in the middle of his shift. Kristi could tell he was upset and confused about something, but she couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong. She didn’t know then that he tried to “walk it off” in the hallways of the hospital where he worked. He couldn’t walk it off and so he told staff he was going outside to his car. Everything he said seemed normal, no need for alarm. Kristi, however, knew even without her training as a nurse that her son was facing some type of medical emergency. Pierce could not clear his head. Somehow irrational thoughts had crowded out his normal thinking. He was growing more agitated. Kristi was trying hard to get through to calm him down. Before she could get help for Pierce, “the call ended abruptly.”

The date was December 8, 2016. Pierce Cordle was 22-years-old, a graduate of Marquette University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Bio-Medical Science and was working in a job he loved as an ER Scribe in a hospital emergency room in Peoria. Pierce was excited as he had just scheduled an interview with his first choice medical school.

Kristi tried to reach Pierce after the call ended because she knew he was still in danger. She called him back. “I wasn’t able to reach him again…that was my absolute fear. It was confirmed by the emergency folks who found him immediately. He had jumped off the parking ramp outside the emergency room to his death.”

Kristi and Jeff Cordle came down from the Quad Cities for a visit with the media to talk about November 23 as Survivor Day. They were also visiting Harry Choin, Pierce’s childhood friend and owner of the Instrument Barn in Huntley. The couple welcomed an interview because they felt the importance of telling Pierce’s story to the media and spreading the word on Pierce’s Promise.

November 23 is a day of remembrance for those we have lost to suicide. The McHenry County Suicide Prevention Task Force will hold an event from 12pm to 3pm at NAMI McHenry County at 620 Dakota Street, Crystal Lake for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. This is a day for survivors to share their stories of loved ones who’ve died from suicide and to watch a video by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

The Cordle’s story would be one of the stories you might hear on Survivor Day.

From the Pierce’s Promise website, you will see these words:

Pierce’s Promise was born to fulfill the promise Pierce had to our world; and to fulfill our unspoken promise to Pierce to make sure his life…and death…forever matter.

Pierce’s Promise has two clear purposes: to raise awareness surrounding the risk of sudden suicide in young adults in the absence of mental illness; and to support the presence of music and its power in the lives of our youth.

Jeff’s family fits the image of an All American family.

“We had a minivan, white picket fence, dog, and two children that graduated college Magna Cum Lauda. Suicide came into our home and into our family and so it doesn’t discriminate and it can happen to anybody and it can happen at any time,” Jeff said.

Kristi and Jeff struggle every day with the loss of their son but they are receiving professional counseling. “We tell ourselves that we have another child, that we have to carry on for her and provide parenting too and we also try to think about what Pierce would want us to do,” Kristi said.

The struggle never subsides but they carry on through their involvement with the charity they created through Pierce’s Promise.

“Pierce had so much promise and we’re just capturing a fraction of it. Sharing his story of life is easy. Sharing his story of death is hard, but staying silent about it doesn’t help anybody, and so we chose to share his story even though it is extremely painful. People need to know that suicide is complex and it doesn’t always happen in a scenario that they have depression or mental illness,” Kristi said.

The World Health Organization’s statistics is that every 40 seconds someone in the world dies by suicide. The statistic is staggering and Kristi Cordle says “suicide is a health crisis and so that’s what we’ve chosen to do to try and make whatever difference we can make by sharing the terribly sad end to our son’s life.”

Kristi and Jeff Cordle are partnering with Harry Choin at his music shop, The Instrument Barn to have him repair donated instruments for young people interested in playing a musical instrument but can’t afford to buy one. They’ve connected with River Music Experience, a non-profit organization in Davenport, Iowa to distribute the repaired instruments to students.

“We are using Pierce’s passion for music as a mechanism to give back to the world. Pierce loved and adored music…was his absolute passion and made him a big part of who he was and so we decided to use music as a format to do that and this program evolved,” Kristi said.

Harry and Pierce had been friends since childhood in Huntley. They jammed together in their families’ basements, Harry on piano and Pierce on trumpet. Harry eventually became very good at repairing instruments and started his business, the Instrument Barn, where he not only repairs instruments for business but for the Pierce’s Promise charity.

One of the latest instruments for Pierce’s Promise is a Holton coronet. Harry polished the metal, resoldered the bell to the instrument and fixed the stuck valves. He bought the coronet at a garage sale for $30 dollars and after a couple of hours of repairs, the instrument looks like new and is worth $200 dollars, according to Harry, though he gave it to Pierce’s Promise to pass it on to the River Music Experience.

“I want to help out in any way I can, so I do. We get the instruments donated to the Instrument Barn, some with missing parts such as a mouthpiece, and I get it 100 percent ready for a student,” Harry said. Several dozen instruments have passed through his hands in his shop to the non-profit organization.

Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may hear one of those instruments in the hands of a young person playing holiday music, maybe at the mall, in a store, or at a school. You don’t have to throw away an old instrument. Contact Harry Choin at the Instrument Barn. He’ll examine the instrument and see whether it can be repaired and have a new life or the parts salvaged and used in another instrument and then passed along to a child for Pierce’s Promise.