CASA GRANDE — Family and friends are mourning the death of Fernando Cornejo, one of the owners of Eva’s Fine Mexican Food.
Cornejo died over the weekend while on vacation in Maui, Hawaii, according to a text message sent to Rotarians by former Casa Grande Rotary Club President Steve DiMuzio.
Cornejo was wading in the surf when he was knocked down by a large wave, according to the family.
Maui County Police reported that an unresponsive man was pulled from the water around 4:10 p.m. on Saturday at Makena State Park. First responders attempted to revive the man but were unsuccessful. Maui County Police confirmed that the man was from Arizona but declined to confirm he was Cornejo.
The Eva’s Cornejo Facebook Page posted about a loss in the family on Sunday. It also reposted a 2020 video Cornejo made about the history of his family’s restaurant and the demolition of the original building on Sunland Gin Road where his father and mother first opened the restaurant in 1985.
The family was working on renovating its original Casa Grande location on Pinal Avenue just north of Kortsen Road and was planning to move back in from its current location, 665 N. Pinal Ave., this fall. Cornejo designed and built the original Pinal Avenue building as part of his parents’ expansion of Eva’s in 2008.
Cornejo was also a member of the Rotary Club of Casa Grande and was recently named the club’s new president. Rotary is a service club with chapters all over the world that has been around for 115 years and is known for its efforts to fight polio.
“When COVID started, our local club searched for a way to help those families who lost jobs and more,” DiMuzio stated in an email. “Fernando and others developed the idea of providing ready to heat and eat meals to families in trouble. As a result, more than 2,400 families received a prepared meal to feed six people. Several of the employees at Eva’s were able to return to work because of this effort.
“Fernando not only helped develop the plan, he contributed to the cost,” DiMuzio stated in an email. “As a member of the Casa Grande community he supported many programs to assist others. As a Rotarian for more than 10 years, he lived the motto of ‘Service above self.’ He will be missed by all of us.”
“He was so giving and generous,” said Pat Griffen from Against Abuse, Inc. Cornejo served on the organization’s board and was the chair of the organization’s annual Taste of Casa Grande event.
Griffen said she knew Cornejo as a trusted friend for more than 15 years. She described him as very giving and generous with a good sense of humor and willingness to charge ahead if he felt something was a good idea. However, he was also willing to compromise when needed, she said.
Cornejo was involved in a number of local organizations including the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Humane Society, as well as running his family’s restaurant and a construction business, Griffen said.
“You will continue to feel his energy in the community for sure,” she said.