Cornel was raised on a cattle ranch north of Sandpoint with his parents and 4 siblings. He graduated from Sandpoint High School in 1974. Cornel studied veterinary medicine at North Idaho College and The University of Idaho. He left college and married Kim Luckey in 1976. He worked in the lumber and logging industry until 1981 when he became the manager of the Army Surplus Store.
Cornel and Kim have 3 children and 16 grandchildren. Cornel was saved in 1975 and has been involved in the teaching ministry for 3 decades. As a young Christian, he was discipled by Jess Whetsel and finds great joy in joining him in ministry at KCC where he is active in teaching and occasional preaching. Cornel has been an elder at KCC since 2014.