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Creative SIU alumnus' story comes to an end after cancer battle

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CARBONDALE – Corydon Vine was a vivid storyteller in Carbondale whose tales secured the love of his life and whose helping hand touched many.

Cory, 26, of Carbondale, died on March 12 following a 17-month battle with terminal stage four gastric cancer — leaving behind his fiancée, family and friends.

A memorial will be held for Cory at the end of April. But in the meantime, the family is hoping to raise funds for a tree or bench memorial at the SIU communications building. People can contact Carrie Vine for donations on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carrievine.

His life

The loss of his life, laugh and creativity have been felt by many including his fiancée, Laney McCray.

“Cory was my best friend,” McCray said. “He was creative and hyper-intelligent. He was everything to me. He had the most outlandish creativity I've ever seen a person. He could always make you smile. If you were having a bad day, he would always figure out a way to make you smile. He was very aware of his place in the world and what he was meant to do. If he could do something to help the planet, he would. If he could do something to help a person, he would. If he needed to help himself, he would.”

Cory’s creativity started early in his childhood, according to his mom, Carrie Vine.

“He was so brilliant,” Carrie Vine said. “He had an imagination like you would not believe. He was so funny. Even in second or third grade, he was playing Dungeons and Dragons, and like writing out these full scripts.”

Carrie Vine and Cory bonded through existing together when his father, Christopher Vine, traveled for the military.

Some of Carrie Vine’s favorite memories with him involve a several month-long road trip and how eager he was to always lend a hand with his siblings.

One of his step-dad’s favorite moments with him was the day he legally became his father — when Cory was five.

“We went through the legal process and the notifications and all the paperwork that you had to do for everything,” Christopher Vine said. “Then we were meeting with the lawyer after all that stuff was done. She asked Cory, ‘So do you want this guy to be your dad?’ He looked her in the eye like she was stupid. Then he said, ‘He already is.’ That was a good moment.”

Cory and his dad bonded over all things video games and medieval as well.

Christopher Vine gave him a sword on Cory’s 13th birthday to signify his transition into adulthood.

Cory’s creative interests followed into SIU where he received a Bachelor's Degree of Arts in Radio, Television, and Digital Media and a minor in Video Game Design in 2020.

Victoria Kreher, a senior lecturer who worked closely with Cory, said he was one of the best types of students.

“He was one of those special students that made me want to be a better person because of the compassion that he showed for fellow students,” Kreher said. "He was so patient with everyone. He was very talented, and he would help bring the other students along.”

Once on a trip to New York with several students, Kreher was injured and unable to leave the hotel room much.

Cory and a friend carried Kreher up and down several flights of stairs so she could see the 9/11 Memorial.

“That really touched me that was such an act of kindness and selflessness,” Kreher said. “Here are these two young men. I'm in my 60s. I'm like they don't need to be encumbered by me. They need to just go and have fun, but that's how thoughtful they both were.”

Cory’s creativity continued to seep into every aspect of his life, including his love life.

Cory and McCray first met through a mutual friend who McCray was dating at the time.

Cory was also dating someone, and the two didn't like each other at first, McCray said.

However, the two decided to make it work for their mutual friend. They began to hang out more, including in the fictional worlds of Dungeons and Dragons.

Then slowly they started to fall for each other.

“I fell in love with the amount of enthusiasm and creativity and how passionate he was about the game,” McCray said. “He’d create these worlds and these characters and these personalities. It makes the game feel so…he would just bring it to life. I always joke that he should be an actor or voice actor. He was just incredible at it. He was truly incredible. He was actually writing D&D books.”

It was later when the two took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee for a concert that McCray said Cory fell in love with her.

“I will never forget that trip,” McCray said. “He told me later on that that was when he fell in love with me because one of our favorite songs came on. I looked at him and I said, ‘It's our song.’ I was so excited, and I did this little jumping thing. He said, “Yeah that was it. That was when I fell for you, and I cursed myself because you were my best friend’s girlfriend.”

The pair ended up getting together in December 2019, almost a year before he started getting sick.

Months later, Cory and his family would have their lives turned upside down as he began his fight with cancer.

'I was in disbelief' 

In late 2020, Cory began having stomach issues. He was having difficulty eating and vomiting up blood, according to Carrie Vine.

He went to the doctor and they told him it was stress, but he continued to get worse, Christopher Vine.

Finally, on Oct. 22, 2020, an endoscopy was done.

“They found a very large tumor in his stomach,” Carrie Vine said. "I was in disbelief of course because like how is that possible? You don't ever want to believe any of that stuff.”

He was immediately referred to a specialist.

Despite, not wanting to try and fight it because of the pain his mom convince then 25-year-old Cory to fight, Carrie Vine said.

The family went back and forth to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and other locations nearly every day for fluids or other procedures.

He loved traveling with all of them, especially loved the trips with his dad.

“He liked it when I was there because we would still talk about normal things, you know, different TV shows we're watching or different points of a different game we're both playing at the time,” Christopher said. “It’s one of those things that he personally told me that, you know, that's what he liked about me being there was the fact that we just continued on with the normal stuff. Even though I was worried about it, I was like not sure what else to talk about. I'm sure you're tired of talking about how this and that's going for the different treatments, I figured I’d just be a break for (Cory).”

Through radiation, chemo, feeding tubes and more, Cory began to improve for a period.

Later, they had to stop chemo because he was so weak, and then he started to go downhill.

It was at that point that everyone was scared to leave his side.

“As soon as he got the terminal diagnosis, I was like, 'Wow, this is not good,” Carrie Vine said. “I tried to do things with him. I would go over to his house and just sit there and work on my computer while he played video games. I’d just sit there to be with him because I knew my time was limited. I always had the really hard choice of 'Am I smothering him. He's engaged to be married. Am I smothering him? Or am I spending time with him?' It was really hard to judge that.”

The diagnosis and treatment didn’t stop Cory and his family from going on adventures though.

Having never seen the ocean Cory’s whole family including siblings, their partners, grandparents, and step-parents all traveled to the Gulf for a family trip.

“We all just went and rented like this three-story beach house,” Carrie Vine said. “We were there for like four days. I'm like, Okay, who cares? It's just money, you know. But literally, I am so glad we did that trip. I have pictures of him on the beach, just smiling. I have pictures of him holding his little sister's hand walking out in the ocean and finding seashells. Those are memories that she's going to have forever.”

Then one day when Cory was having trouble breathing, McCray took him to the doctor and got devastating news.

Puss was in his lungs from pneumonia, and the doctors said there wasn’t much they could to.

“I didn't know what else to do,” McCray said. “We've done everything. We weren't able to put a feeding tube. We weren't able to put another release tube in. We weren't able to give him any more medicine, and we weren't able to give him any chemo. I felt like I was just eliminating him from living. I still carry that with me. I had to ask him the big question, are you done? For him to say yes, it is one of the biggest decisions that I've ever made in my life. I made a life or death decision that day.”

Suddenly the man she had proposed to after he got his diagnosis was in shambles and all of their hearts broke.

Cory later passed away on March 12, and his family grieved.

But so many other people grieved that day as well.

Over 3,000 people came to a virtual vigil in Final Fantasy 14 the day Cory died to speak and share the thoughts of the man in their group that was always willing to lend a helping hand.

“One of the big things that a lot of people during the vigil would talk about was him helping them do something,” Christopher Vine said. “He was in it and was always willing to go the extra mile to lend a hand. Whether he needed move a couch or if I was building a project. He’d come by. If you needed something he would drop what he was doing to help. It was always there to lend a hand.”

Everyone said that was very indicative of how was as a person and his legacy.

“He was the most giving person. He was so supportive,” Carrie Vine said. “He was just nonjudgmental. I was always super proud of him.”

A "celebration of life" service will be held at Bell Hill Mansion in Cobden on April 30. The gathering will begin at 3 p.m. with a formal service to start promptly at 4 p.m.

A potluck reception with drinks and music will follow at 6 p.m.

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