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John Edward Cunningham

1931 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
John Edward Cunningham Obituary
John Edward Cunningham, beloved of Paula, after several years of declining health, returned peacefully to his Lord, Friday 1 February 2019.
Dr. Cunningham is preceded in death by his father, Felix and his mother, Beth, both of Malone, NY and by his mother in law, Teresa Gil Ratcliffe of Tucson, AZ. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Paula and his four children, Andrew (Tracie) of Wylie, TX, Moira of Albuquerque, Patrick (Denise) of Silver City, and Kristen of Silver City. His grandchildren will also miss him terribly: Erin, Luke, and Jonah, Madison and Morgan, and Page.
Jack was born in Malone, New York in 1931 to Felix P. Cunningham and Beth (Sornberger) Cunningham. He spent what he referred to as an idyllic childhood in Malone and entered Dartmouth College in 1949. He spent the summer of 1953 bicycling through the British Isles, and in 1955 joined the US Army, training at Ft. Dix and serving as radio repairman in Japan in 1956.
In Japan, Jack began a life-long fascination with active volcanoes. He visited, climbed, photographed, and tempted fate with many of the earth's most lively, substantial, and dramatic features, including Mt. Fuji. Upon his return to the States, Jack followed his passion for the earth sciences to the University of Arizona where he met and married the lovely Paula Ratcliffe in 1959. The University of Arizona awarded Dr. Cunningham his PhD in 1965.
Jack and Paula first moved to New Mexico for a teaching position at Eastern New Mexico University, but the very next year, in 1964, they moved to Silver City to accept Jack's first tenure-track position at WNMU. Jack and Paula raised their family-and Jack spent the remainder of his days-in what he believed was "the only place in the world worth living." In addition to teaching geology and anthropology for WNMU and chairing the Earth Sciences department for 15 years, Dr. Cunningham engaged in exploration and research for the mines and other commercial concerns during the summer months.
In his 30 years teaching, Dr. Cunningham contributed in innumerable ways to the growth and health of the University and taught hundreds of students, many of whom visited him throughout his life. In his declining years, his students visited him at home to remind him of the ways he enriched not only their educations, but their lives.
In Silver City, Jack engaged many of the fascinations of life that he loved, and he pursued them with gusto. He was a fly fisherman like his father; earned a brown belt in Judo; taught his children to camp, ski, and hunt; built a home fireplace of fossils, minerals, and Indian artifacts; mapped most of southern NM; enjoyed cheering for the Broncos, the Colts, and the Mustangs; and taught his children to value what was right beneath their feet as they searched for rocks and arrowheads together on Bear Mountain and in Chloride Flats.
Dr. Cunningham learned to play the bagpipes during his Dartmouth years and while at the University of Arizona, he conceived and developed the Tucson Highlanders, a still successful and now nationally recognized pipe band. To Silver City's delight, he brought his love of the pipe band to us. For many years, he led the 4th of July parade as Pipe Major of the pipe band he formed here, the Copper Thistle Pipes and Drums. Pipe Major Cunningham's legacy extends to teaching the pipes and drums to anyone who had an interest, not only in the music, but in the beautiful Celtic protocol that attends the tradition.
Jack was a member of St. Francis Newman Center Parish, the Gem and Mineral Society's Rolling Stones, the New Mexico State Defense Force, and a lifelong member of the NM Geological Society. He was a loyal, productive, and well loved member of the American Legion Allingham-Golding Post #18, serving as Post Commander for many years. As Commander of the Honor Guard for the American Legion, he piped soldiers to their final rest, and provided many civilians the same musical tribute.
Funeral services will be held at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Tuesday morning 12 February 2019 at 11:30. For those interested, a rosary will be prayed directly preceding the service, beginning at 11:00. His final resting place will be Ft. Bayard National Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are overseen by Terrazas Funeral Chapels. In lieu of flowers, Paula requests that donations are made in her husband's honor to High Desert Humane Society. To send condolences, visit
Published in Deming Headlight on Feb. 8, 2019
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