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Beth Cunningham

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MONTEREY, Calif. -- Beth Cunningham died on April 14, 2004 in Monterey.

Beth was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., the daughter of political and social activists Emmette and Dorothy Cunningham. Beth made it her life’s work to carry out their vision of social and political justice.

After graduating from Bronx High School of Science, Beth moved to Vermont and worked as a shop steward and union organizer at Stanley Tools. Later she lived in Santa Fe, N.M. where she worked for the Democratic party and ran a successful campaign for a local judge. Also active in the Jewish congregation in Santa Fe, she was a lifelong member of Hadassah, and served as president of the local Hadassah chapter there.

Beth made her home in Monterey in 1988 and immediately became active in local politics. She was a member of the Democratic Women’s club, assembly district delegate to state party conventions, and served as Monterey County Democratic chairwoman for two terms. Her enthusiasm and unflagging focus on the ideals of human rights and welfare achieved through the political system made her an inspiration to others. Beth was awarded California State Senate and Assembly Certificates of Recognition from Sen. Henry Mello and their assemblyman, Sam Farr, in 1992 for her dedicated work for the local party. She also worked on local and statewide campaigns including that of Rusty Areias.

Beth resigned as chairwoman of the party to protest its support of the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, and was given a Hero Award from the Coast Weekly for her courageous stance.

Beth lived a life of faith and strong spiritual belief. A devoted and practicing Jew, Beth honored and studied all religious traditions. She was ordained as a minister of religious science, the non-denominational philosophy that merges world religions and scientific understanding. She loved to study the Torah and Talmud and to read about the mystical traditions of Judaism. She believed that the purpose of life is to allow the divine sparks of God to be manifest in physical reality through daily life activities and she strove to make her life a blessing to those around her.

Beth’s courage, tenacity and love of life were demonstrated when, after suffering extreme debilitation from medical treatments for cancer, she went on to fulfill her lifelong dream of attending law school. She graduated with highest honors from Monterey College of Law and received awards for scholastic excellence and outstanding academic achievement. Throughout her illness she took great joy in her home, gardening, her pets, the healing atmosphere at Josephine Kernes Pool, watching her favorite team, the New York Yankees, and visiting with her many loving friends and family.

Beth is predeceased by her mother and father and sister, Isabel Julie Friedman. She is survived by her sister Georgia Gibbons, nephews, niece and cousins, and a large extended family.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Josephine Kernes Memorial Pool, 15 Portola Ave., Monterey or the giver’s charity or progressive cause of choice.
Published in Bennington Banner on June 10, 2004
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