Born in Bismarck, Illinois 92 years ago, Thomas (Tom) H. Cunningham died peacefully of natural causes on November 1, 2013 with family and EmpRes Post Acute employees at his side. When Tom was 7 yrs. old his father was killed in a street car accident so Tom went to live on his grandparent's farm in Bismarck where his love of the land and horses quickly developed. Tom attended the University of Illinois Champaign for three and a half years, where he lettered in basketball and polo. Active in ROTC Tom left college prior to graduation to enlist in the Navy to help his country during World War II. Tom was a VF(N) 76 night fighter pilot flying off the USS Hornet and USS Yorktown. On the USS Hornet alone Tom flew more than 30 night missions in his Hellcat. Credited with several kills Tom was shot down in the Pacific, and fortunately picked up by a destroyer. Having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two air medals, a Purple Heart and several citations, Tom returned to the states as a Naval night fighter pilot instructor and married the love of his life, Mary Lamoree, who he had met on a blind date when he had attended the University of Illinois. Tom's zest for life, always-ready smile, outgoing personality, sense of humor, love of anything chocolate or ice cream, devotion to golf, enjoyment of playing bridge, celebration of a good grape harvest and keen sense of competition lasted his entire life. A sentimental husband, father, grampa and friend, Tom always had an upbeat, humorous comment for people. Known for giving family members and friends humorous nicknames, singing little ditties or rhymes, and always joking with people, his cheerful outlook was contagious throughout his long and successful career in sales and management. Tom and Mary retired and moved from Southern California to Santa Rosa in 1983 where they initially had horses for the grandchildren, and ultimately award winning Pinot Noir grapes at their Slusser Rd. Tomar Vineyard. Cheerfully showing his delight and love of everything about the season, at Christmas time Tom would don a Santa hat and, asking parents' permission, hand out hundreds of small gifts to children who looked like they needed a smile. Tom is survived by Mary, his loving and dedicated wife of 68 years; daughter Sandy and son-in law Jim Kriegsman (Petaluma); daughter Jan and son-in law Richard Schultz (Petaluma); three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. The family is very grateful and appreciative of all the staff at Sutter Hospital Santa Rosa, Spring Lake Village Skilled Nursing, Emeritis Skilled Nursing, EmpRes Post Acute and Hospice by the Bay who compassionately and gracefully helped Tom through the last two years.
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At Tom's request, there will be no services. A private family celebration of Tom's life will be held at a later date.
Published in Petaluma Argus-Courier from Nov. 15 to Dec. 14, 2013