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George Jay Cunningham

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George Jay Cunningham Obituary
Cunningham George Jay Cunningham, 93, of Columbus, Ohio, and most recently, Seattle, Washington, died peacefully on March 23, 2017, at Kline-Galland Home in Seattle, with his daughter by his side. George is survived by his children, Jane Cunningham (David Bruck) and sons, Ross Cunningham of Irving, Texas, and Myles Cunningham (Lill) of Tyler, Texas; a niece, Gail Fillinger; and three nephews, Jay Badders, Wayne Sherman, and Steve Sherman. George's legacy is also expressed through his three grandchildren, Courtney Coleman (James) of McKinney, Texas, Ross Cunningham (Dessie) of Ft. Worth, Texas, Michael Mutony (Heather) of Eugene, Oregon; and three great-grandchildren, Ella Street, Preston Cunningham, and Rylan Cunningham. George was predeceased by his wife of 65 years Miriam Anderson Cunningham and his sister Jeanne Badders. George was born May 26, 1923, in Beckley, West Virginia. His father, Jay Cunningham, served as an Army captain during WW1. After the war, he re-enlisted as a Technical Sergeant and was stationed in Beckley. Later Jay and family transferred to Frankfort and Louisville, Kentucky and Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana. Jay died at age 43 of a heart attack when George was 11. His mother, Elizabeth, moved with George and sister Jeanne to Columbus (German Village), where she had grown up and had the support of her family. As a young boy growing up in German Village, George had a paper route with the Columbus Dispatch, beginning when he was just 12 years old. At 15, he was named "Best Salesman" in Columbus and won a trip to the New York City World's Fair in 1939. Following graduation from South High School in 1941, George attended The Ohio State University. His education was interrupted when he was drafted into the US Air Force. He served in Siena, Italy, during the war. After he returned, George was honorably discharged and resumed his studies at OSU on the GI Bill. He graduated in 1948 with a BS in Business Administration and was elected to Beta Gamma Sigma, a scholastic fraternity in the Business School. An avid OSU football fan, George was a volunteer usher at Buckeye Stadium. He ushered the famous OSU-Michigan Snow Bowl in 1950! Before he was drafted, George had met Miriam Anderson at a church event at Southwood Church of Christ in Columbus in 1942. They continued their courtship during the war and were married on January 1, 1949. As everyone who knew them knows, they were rarely apart in their 65 years of marriage. George started his career in the insurance industry in Columbus. The young couple lived in Columbus until 1951, when George received a job transfer and moved with Miriam and their infant daughter Jane to New Haven, Connecticut, where sons Ross and Myles were born. The family enjoyed their time in New England and made many lifelong friends. George was transferred back to Columbus in 1961, where they lived in Upper Arlington until moving to Tyler in 2004. After Miriam died in 2014, George moved to Seattle. In George's 40-year career, he was always involved with personnel work. He worked for 19 years at Nationwide, and then on to Grange Mutual Insurance Company, where he worked for 21 years, retiring in 1988 as Vice President-Personnel. George recruited, interviewed, and hired hundreds of people over the years. As one Grange employee recalled at his retirement dinner, "Mr. C is the meaning of the term people person." George had an uncanny knack for remembering faces and names. Once while bicycling in his late seventies (he was an avid cyclist all his life), he sped down a hill and was surprised by a speed bump, causing a bad spill that left him unconscious for nearly five minutes. George awoke at the scene and gazed at the badge of the EMT bending over him. His first words were, "Wasn't your dad a fireman with the Columbus Fire Department?" George's retirement years were busy. George and Miriam enjoyed traveling around the country visiting historical sites and attending Elderhostel programs. He was an active member of the Upper Arlington Historical Society and the SAR, which he joined by right of lineal descent from John Cunningham who moved to Pennsylvania from Ireland just before the Revolution. Always generous with his time and known for providing selfless service to others, George volunteered for many organizations both before and after retirement. He and Miriam volunteered at Riverside Hospital in Columbus for 20 years! George received recognition from the Central Ohio Red Cross Blood Program for donating multiple gallons of blood. He was the President of the Barrington Road Elementary School PTA when his children were in school there. At First Community Village, he served on the volunteer advisory board. During the five years that George and Miriam lived at FCV, he was a bingo caller, served on the new member / escort committee, delivered mail daily, and spent countless hours visiting health care residents. He received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Rotary Club of UA. He served on the board of the Salvation Army for Franklin/Delaware counties. When George and Miriam moved to Tyler in 2004, they continued their volunteer work at Mother Francis Hospital. George and Miriam also delivered food to the needy with Meals on Wheels. He was a member of the East Texas Genealogical Society and member of and volunteer with the Smith County Historical Society, where he also volunteered. In addition to volunteer work, George was always active in the churches he joined. Church affiliations over the years include the Southwood Church of Christ in Columbus (where he met Miriam); the Evangelical Free Church in Hamden; Mountview Baptist Church in Upper Arlington; and Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler. At Mountview, he also served as financial secretary, choir member, historian, teacher, and member of the Board of Deacons. Interment will be at Union Cemetery in Columbus on Saturday, May 20, at 11 a.m. There will be a graveside service officiated by Minister Kent Fillinger, who is George's great-nephew (son of Gail Fillinger, George's niece). Reception to follow. Memorial contributions may be made to the Salvation Army or the .

Published in The Columbus Dispatch on Apr. 23, 2017
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