Janice Williams

Archive for the ‘Obituary’ Category

Tombstone Tuesday: Edrie Cunningham

In Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, The OTHER Cunninghams, William Henry on January 24, 2017 at 11:20 am

Edrei from family portrait

I mentioned last week that the photo of Jim Holmsley came to me from Edrie Cunningham’s scrapbook. I realized I should honor her with her own post to thank her for her scrapbook of local news clippings. A great number of the Comanche Chief newspapers do not exist. The librarian Margaret Waring told me that sad news years ago and I wonder what pieces of information about our Comanche ancestors lives we might know if we had those newspapers.

But Edrie cut out many local citizens’ obituaries and most of her relatives. I haven’t made an inventory of them all, but it will be interesting to see the time span of her scrapbook. Even after she died, her daughter Mabel continued to put loose clippings into the book. And that is why we have Edrie’s obituary.


There is one fact about Edrie that no one else in the family can claim. She is our only family member whose name was Cunningham at her birth and still Cunningham after her marriage. Edrie married William Albert Cunningham, a member of the “other” Cunningham family that we’ve referred to before. His ancestors are buried in the Newburg Cemetery just like hers.

This was their wedding photo. They married December 4, 1902.


Edrie Susannah was born January 6, 1881. She was baby number 6 our of 8 born to William Henry Cunningham of the original 12 Cunningham children. Her middle name is the same as her grandmother Susannah.

Edrie lived her whole life in Comanche County, much of it in the Newburg Community before they moved into town.

Edrie and Albert had three daughters: Willie Mildred “Miller,” Mattie Lucille “Sade,” and Mabel Edrie “Bud.” They died at 87, 92, and 88 and they were all faithful to the reunion until their dying day.


Here are the “girls” in 2001 (Miller, Bud, Sade).

2001-08-07 14.12.46

Of course, Edrie was faithful to the reunion as well. Here is a picture of Edrie (third from left) with her brothers and sisters at the reunion.

2001-08-06 22.25.18

When Edrie died on May 11, 1965, she lived in a nursing home in Dublin. In the obituary I see that my grandfather, Arla Hallford, was a pallbearer. He was her nephew.

Edrie and Albert were buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.


Thanks to findagrave contributory GenLady for this photo.


Tombstone Tuesday: Jim Holmsley

In Elizabeth Holmsley, Gravestones, Newspaper articles, Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, Second generation, Second Generation Stories, T.J. Holmsley, Tombstone Tuesday on January 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm


This is a great photo that comes to me from Ruth Adele Moore and from my great-grand-aunt Edrie Cunningham.

It is a souvenir photograph from Mineral Wells, Texas, taken around 1905. There are several photos similar to this one on The Portal to Texas History, a great source for research or entertainment.


Apparently photos like this were taken as people enjoyed the recreation available on East Mountain in Mineral Wells. According to The Portal, J.C. McClure, an early photographer, first owned the donkeys for the trail. He was killed while riding a wild stallion in town and J.L. Young and his wife took over the photography stand. The back of this picture advertises the Texas and Pacific Railway and also the Jericho Photo Co. with “Fine Photographic Productions and Mountain and Donkey Groups / View Souvenirs & Scenery of Minwells.” Little truly identifies this picture for us except in small handwriting it does have “Jim Holmsley” written above the man on the right side. No identification on the other man and I think he would be identified if he had been a family member.

The picture is of our cousin James Jefferson Holmsley, who went by the name of Jim. He was the youngest son of the Holmsley children, second youngest overall. By the time he was born, two of his older sisters were married and had children–Jim’s nieces and nephews–who were older than their uncle. 

Jim probably had the most advantages of the Holmsley children because he was born after the native Americans were no longer a threat and the Holmsleys were settled and prosperous in Comanche.

Jim was only 21 when his father T.J. Holmsley died. Jim continued to live with his mother, Betty Holmsley, in Comanche until her death when he was 40 years old. He had continued to farm and raise livestock, according to the censuses of 1910 and 1920.

After her death, at some point Jim moved to the Hotel Carter in Comanche and lived there for several years. He was working for the highway department in some capacity, too. Sadly, in the summer of 1932, the hotel burned to the ground. Fifteen other residents and guests were able to escape with their lives, but losing their belongings, but Jim was asleep on the second floor and did not make it out of the burning building.

He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery. He never married and had no children.

An article in the Abilene paper about his relatives living there notes that nephew T.J. Holmsley had immediately left for Comanche. T.J. (Tom) had lived with his grandmother Betty and Jim perhaps all of his life. He is listed at 6 and 16 years old with them in the census. He was Jim’s oldest brother Billy’s son, but Tom’s mother had died when he was born, so perhaps he came to live with Betty at that time.


Jim was only 49 years old when he died.


Thank you to findagrave.com contributor Russ Davies for this photo.

Tombstone Tuesday: Eldora Jewell Cunningham

In Abilene, Gravestones, Obituary, Second generation, Second Generation Stories, Tombstone Tuesday on December 13, 2016 at 1:14 am

John Valentine Cunningham had three beautiful daughters. Here is his family in about 1895:


Our subject today is Eldora Jewell Cunningham, the second oldest in the family. I assume she is second from the left. She was born January 27, 1869, so she was about 26 in this photo. She went by the name Jewell.


Jewell was born in Bosque County when John V. and Mattie had moved there to ranch and he also served as the postmaster. The family moved to Buffalo Gap and her father became the second Sheriff of Taylor County. At that time, Buffalo Gap was a bustling town of 1200 and a Presbyterian College there gave the town the moniker “The Athens of the West.” Jewell was a student at the college.

The Cunninghams moved into the new county seat of Abilene in 1883 and John V. continued as sheriff of Taylor County.

I don’t know how Jewell met her husband Dick Bracken, but the story of their elopement to Anson, Texas, (23 miles north) became a family legend and was recalled for an article in the Abilene newspaper in 1956, many years after their deaths.

“The hack with two couples in it dashed up to the Star Hotel at 11:30 and after Bracken quickly obtained the license, he and 19-year-old Jewell were married in the hotel parlor by the Rev. J.H. Wiseman. Jinks Magee, the driver, later took them to Merkel to catch the train for the groom’s home in San Antonio.”

Dick was 9 years older than Jewell. Since her father was always well armed, maybe elopement was the best decision!

Dick Bracken had been raised in several places in Texas and his father had been a grocery owner in Lampasas at one time.

It looks like they lived in New Mexico in their early married life where he managed a ranch for a short time. They then returned to Abilene and Dick Bracken owned the Gilt Edge saloon and possibly another called Gray’s Saloon.

In 1893 they left Abilene and moved with their two children to Mineola, Texas. He was a cow buyer there and they had two more children and were there at least until 1900.

Dick Bracken died February 20, 1904, age 43, and is buried in Abilene. I am not sure if they were living there by the time he died and I don’t know what he died of. But I know that Jewell was left with children ages 13, 10, 8, and 4. She never remarried.

It appears that Jewell and her children lived at 342 Sycamore in Abilene, just a couple of blocks from the Courthouse. I wish Google Street View would go back about 100 years so we could see what the house looked like. Now that area is all warehouses and parking lots.

It must have been a very large home because in 1920 Jewell was running it as a rooming house. Her son (now in his 20s) is still living with her along with about 10 men and women that work at a hotel.

Jewell was a widow for 38 years and she died on her father’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, 1942, at St. Ann’s hospital in Abilene. She had been there for five weeks. She was 73.


So you don’t have to read the small print, here is the obit text:

Early Taylor County Resident, Indian Fighter’s Daughter, Dead

Funeral service for Mrs. Jewell Bracken, pioneer Abilenian, will be held at 5 o’clock this afternoon from Laughter’s Chapel with burial in the Masonic Cemetery. The Reverend J.H. Hamblin, pastor of the First Methodist Church of which Mrs. Bracken was a member will conduct the service assisted by the Rev. Willis P. Gerhart, rector of the Heavenly Rest Episcopal Church.

Mrs. Bracken died at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at St. Ann’s Hospital where she had been a patient five weeks. She had been ill since December. She is survived by 3 children, Mrs. H.O. Everts of San Angelo, Mrs. D.A. Winter, and Charles Bracken, and four grandchildren, Bob Kennedy, Jerry, Joe, and Jean Bracken. Mrs. Bracken died on the birthday of her father, the late John Valentine Cunningham, who had received his name from his birthdate Valentine Day. Cunningham was Taylor County’s second sheriff and tax assessor , an office which he held for 25 years. When he was 13 years of age he was an Indian fighter and with his two brothers and father Capt. James Cunningham he fought in the Dove Creek Battle in which his father was commander of the 500 white men who attacked 1000 Indians.

The Cunningham family moved from Comanche County to Buffalo Gap in 1880 and Mrs. Bracken was a student there in the old Presbyterian College. Sheriff at the time, the county seat was moved from Buffalo Gap to Abilene, Cunningham moved his family here at that time. He later served as a U.S. Marshall. Mrs. Bracken was born January 27, 1869 in Bosque County and was married to Dick Bracken on August 7, 1888, at Anson. Bracken died in 1904. Pall bearers will be Wylie Norwood, Art Faustgen, George Elliot, Earl Walker, Emmette Chandler, and Will Stevens.

Feb. 15, 1942 Abilene Reporter News Sunday


I think the saddest part of the story could be that her oldest son is not listed as a survivor. He was still alive and living in Washington State, but apparently had been out of touch with the family for many years. On his draft registration for World War I there is a blank for “someone who will always know where you are” (or something like that) and he wrote “None.”


Jewell is buried in the Abilene Municipal Cemetery by her husband, and infant son John Valentine Bracken. Nearby are her parents and sister Erie Ligon.



Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas J. Cunningham

In Aaron, Gravestones, Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, Second Generation Stories, Tombstone Tuesday on December 6, 2016 at 9:40 am

I don’t have a lot of information on Thomas J. Cunningham, but the condition of his obituary led me to choose him as our subject today. I am the caretaker of a lot of Cunningham artifacts and I have not inventoried them very well (yet!). Going through a pile of loose, very old clippings, Tom’s was in pitiful shape, in tatters, and almost impossible to read.


So that you don’t have to read the tattered copy, here is a transcription.

Comanche Chief June 23 1939

Tom Cunningham Funeral Services Held Here Sunday

Tom J. Cunningham, 57, attorney and criminal district court reporter, died at his home in Corus Christi early Saturday morning following a heart attack. Funeral services were held at Corpus Christi Saturday evening at 7:30 and services concluded in Comanche Sunday afternoon. The services here were under the direction of Rev. C. ?Klingman and Rev. E.M. Shepard and were held at the Central Christian Church. Interment was in Oakwood Cemetery.

He was born in the Newburg community and was the son of Aaron Cunningham and Minerva Montgomery Cunningham. He made his home at Comanche until after he had graduated from Comanche High School. From Comanche he moved to Eastland. Mr. Cunningham served as county judge of Eastland County for two terms and later was elected a state representative. Mr. Cunningham and family moved from Eastland to Corpus Christi six years ago and [he] has worked as court reporter in the Corpus Christi, Brownsville, and Kingsville criminal court district. He took an active interest in church and fraternal life. He was a member of the Christian Church, the Lions Club, the Eagles, and the Knights of Pythias.

Survivors include his wife, Catherine, a daughter, Mrs. Frank Owens, and two sons James and Tom Jr., all of Corpus Christi. In addition to his immediate family, he is survived by a sister, Mrs. O.A. Chilton of Comanche and five brothers, John Cunningham of Comanche, George Cunningham of Austin, David Cunningham of Houston, Leroy Cunningham of Temple, and Joe Cunningham of Mineral Wells. Pall bearers here were nephews of Mr. Cunningham. They were Rector and Miles Cunningham of Mineral Wells, Dr. Paul Cunningham of Houston, Roy and Dick Henson of Newburg, and Carl Stewart of Comanche.

Out of town persons at the service here were Joe Cunningham and family of Mineral Wells, D.H. Cunningham and family of Houston, Dr. and Mrs. Paul Cunningham of Houston, Leroy Cunningham and daughter Kathleen of Temple, Mrs. T.M. Smalling of Pampa, Don Gillespie of Corpus Christi and Mrs. Welborn Dunlap of Corpus Christi and Mr. ad Mrs. Hugh Clark and daughter Bettie and Mrs. Connie L. Smith of Dallas.


Other than what is in the obituary, I don’t know a lot about Tom. He was the youngest son of Aaron and Minerva and she died when he was only 18 months old, so he never knew his mother. Aaron married Amanda when Tom was about two and a half, so she was the mother he grew up with.

I don’t have a picture of Tom, though since he was a State Representative I suppose I could find one on the walls of the state capitol.

When he died, he was buried in Comanche in the Oakwood Cemetery. His wife lived almost 40 more years after his death, and she is buried beside him there.


Tombstone Tuesday: Zimarou Holmsley Isaacs

In Elizabeth Holmsley, Gravestones, Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, T.J. Holmsley, Tombstone Tuesday on November 22, 2016 at 10:55 am

“Zimarou” is one of those Cunningham family names that we all notice in the family books. At the last family reunion, Beth Fairbrother and I were talking to Kevin Braziel about his new granddaughter on the way. What will her name be? We asked and then we both said, “Zimarou!” thinking that would be a great family name to pass along. Sadly, his son did not pass it along.

It would have been a very good name to pass along in the Braziel family because Kevin’s grandmother was Zimarou Cunningham Braziel and she was the daughter of Tom Cunningham (of the original 12 children).

But this is the story of a Zimarou that preceded her. In fact, I believe that Zimarou Cunningham was named in memory of Zimarou Holmsley Isaacs.


I was curious if Zimarou was the name of someone in the Bible or someone famous or a common name at the time of the Civil War. But Google “Zimarou” and almost all of the articles are about Zimarous that are in our family, so it is not a common name at all.

I found a bit of evidence that a member of the Holmsley family married a woman named Zimarou before any of the Holmsleys ever came to Texas. I didn’t investigate further, but perhaps she was a favorite aunt of T.J. Holmsley and he wanted to honor her.

Whatever the reason, Betty (Cunningham) Holmsley and T.J. Holmsley named their second daughter Zimarou (with no middle name). She was born May 3, 1862, in the Confederate State of Texas. Betty was 23 and T.J. was 28 and they had a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.

I don’t know much about the growing up of Zimarou Holmsley, but since her parents had six more children before she married Bill Isaacs and two more after she married, I’m sure she spent a lot of her years taking care of her younger brothers and sisters.

Zimarou was only 17 when she married William Calvin Isaacs, “Bill” to his friends. They married September 14, 1879.

On the back of the picture shown above of young Zimarou, someone in the family has written that Zimarou’s husband Bill was out of town when he was struck down by typhoid fever. Zimarou insisted on going to him to nurse him. She did, he pulled through, but she took typhoid and died herself on August 15, 1880.

They have an infant daughter buried in the Oakwood Cemetery that reportedly died on August 9, 1880. I have not found anything more about her death and if it was related to typhoid.

The August 21, 1880, issue of the Comanche Chief had a short notice of her sickness and death (I believe they were in the same paper, but that happened frequently in the old papers).

It reads:

Mrs. ISAACS, daughter of Mr. T.J. HOLMSLEY, is very ill, we are sorry to learn.

Death of Mrs. Issacs It seems sad that the angel of death should cut down one so young and endowed with so many womanly virtues. On Monday night last the spirit of Mrs. Wm. ISAACS took flight from its earthly friends to a better world. She was the daughter of Mr. T.J. HOLMSLEY, and only a few months ago was led to the bridal alter. A large procession of friends followed her remains to the grave. Christian or not, we do not know, neither do we enquire, but she was a true woman possessing every virtue necessary for a happy peace in that great unknown where her spirit has fled.Sudden Death

[Transcribed by Judy Michaels The Comanche Chief, Comanche, Texas. Saturday, August 21, 1880]

Zimarou <i>Holmsley</i> Isaacs

[Thank you, Russ Davies, Findagrave.com volunteer, for the gravestone photo]

Zimarou’s grave is in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche. The OTHER Zimarou in the family, Zimarou Cunningham Braziel, was born 5 years after Zimarou Isaacs died. I would guess that she was named after her first cousin who died young.

Tombstone Tuesday: James Conn Cunningham

In George Washington Cunningham, Gravestones, Obituary, San Angelo, Tombstone Tuesday on November 15, 2016 at 10:23 am


James Conn Cunningham was the oldest son of George Washington Cunningham (the youngest son in the Cunningham family). Conn was born to George and his wife Eliza (Isaacs) September 29, 1881 in Comanche County. His birthplace is likely in Mills County today as Mills was created out of Comanche County (and Brown, Hamilton, and Lampasas Counties) in 1887.

When he was just 6 or so, Mills County was created and his father was elected the first sheriff of Mills County during a very turbulent time of vigilantism. Lynchings and assassinations were commonplace in this area particularly after the Civil War and neighbors did not even trust their neighbors, not knowing who might be part of the secret vigilante groups. George served until 1894.

You have probably driven past the old Mill County Jail as you’ve passed through Goldthwaite.

Goldthwaite jail

This was the home the Cunningham family lived in as soon as it was built in 1888. This would have been Conn’s older sister Gertrude, his younger sister Mary Edna, and the baby Dave. Conn’s mother Eliza cooked for the prisoners as well as for her family.

They had only lived in the county jail for two years when his mother Eliza died. The four children went to live with Eliza’s sister “Aunt Betty” Meadows nearby during this difficult time.

In 1891, George W. Cunningham remarried. His new bride was Katy Danley McCall. She brought her young son Will McCall into the marriage. He was younger than Conn, right between Mary and Dave in age. George and Katy went on to have four of their own children.

When George was no longer sheriff, the family moved to San Angelo and he worked in law enforcement there in various capacities, including police chief.

Conn was a teenager and was soon part of the social scene of Tom Green County. On June 6, 1904, when he was almost 23, he married 17-year-old Winnie Francis Kersey in Christoval.


Conn and Winnie had two children, George Winford “Concho” Cunningham and Mary Elizabeth Cunningham.

In 1918, when their kids were still at home, the family lived at 410 West Concho in San Angelo, near the bend of the Concho River. I believe this is the house they were living in (2013 picture from Google).


Conn was now 36 years old and an established banker at the San Angelo National Bank. According to his draft registration for World War I, he was tall and slender and had gray eyes and black hair.

In 1932, children now grown and married, Conn and Winnie moved to Fort Stockton, Texas, and leased 30,000 acres from the University of Texas and he joined a long line of ranchers and stock raisers in the family.

For a period of 6 years, his Aunt Betty Meadows lived with them in her old age until her death in 1943. She felt like the Cunningham children were her own, having kept them after her sister died. Conn obviously returned the affection.

In 1958, Conn sold his cattle and ranching interests and he and Winnie moved back to San Angelo and lived for a time at the luxurious Cactus Hotel. It still stands today as the tallest building in town, though now it is apartments and a venue for weddings and parties. In 1959, they returned to Fort Stockton and built a home.

Winnie died on June 6, 1962, on their 58th wedding anniversary. Conn was ill and went to Roswell, New Mexico, to live with his daughter and her husband, Bill McCampbell,  just before his death, January 31, 1963, only six months after Winnie’s death.

Conn and Winnie are buried side by side in the East Hill Cemetery in Fort Stockton, Texas.



Thanks to Joyce Edgar Phipps, a FindaGrave.com volunteer who took this photo.

Tombstone Tuesday: Mary Jane Neely

In Abilene, Gravestones, Mary Jane Neely, Obituary, Original 12 Cunninghams, Tombstone Tuesday on October 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

This gravestone picture is from Findagrave.com, thank you Russ Davies for taking the picture.


Mary Jane Cunningham was born in 1860, the second to the last child of Captain James and Susanna Cunningham. Her brother Aaron, the oldest child, was 24 when she was born. Her older sister Betty was already married and had a child.

At 15, she married Joe Neely and had 9 children that lived past infancy and 4 who died very young. Joe died when he was 62 and they were living in Hamlin, in Jones County, Texas.

Mary Jane lived her final days in the household of her daughter Mary Stephens in Abilene. She died just before she turned 79, 21 years after Joe.

Both were taken back to the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche to be buried. T.J. and Betty Holmsley and many other family members of the next generation had already been buried in Oakwood by the time she died.


Our 2012-2013 Deaths

In Genealogy records, Obituary on July 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

I apologize for the incredibly long gap here. Time to do some catch up as we prepare for the 2013 reunion. I have been compiling information about the family to bring to the reunion next week and looking over the obituaries that I have from the last year or so. Let me share the list and I will also share full obituaries soon. If I have missed someone, please let me know.

Beginning with the most recent and going back to last year’s reunion:

Jim Lockridge (James Maston Lockridge) born October 29, 1934, in the Pettit Community in Comanche County, died July 24, 2013, in Tyler. Jim was the son of Homer Hubbard Lockridge and Susie Lee Willis. Susie was the granddaughter of Unity Lewis of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Bob Chandler (Robert Emmett Chandler III) born February 14, 1923, in Mexia, Texas, died July 4, 2013, in Midland. Bob was the son of Robert Emmett Chandler, Jr., and Mary “Opal” Inzer. Bob (Jr.) was the grandson of Betty Holmsley of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Ellen Dearson (Emma Ellen Jones Dearson) born December 23, 1915, in Mills County, died May 4, 2013, in Weatherford, Texas. Ellen was the daughter of Evans Jones and Ruth Cunningham. Ruth was the daughter of Joseph Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Eddie Savage (Eddie James Savage) born November 7, 1938, in Hollis, Oklahoma, died May 2, 2013, in Bay City. Eddie was the son of Lee Hugh Savage and Margaret Cunningham Wever. Margaret was the granddaughter of Bill Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Ruby Joe Freeman (Ruby Joe Jones Freeman) born May 31, 1918, died April 25, 2013. Ruby Joe was the daughter of Evans Jones and Ruth Cunningham and the sister of Ellen Dearson (above) who died only a couple of weeks after she did. Their mother Ruth was the daughter of Joseph Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Sally Stout (Sarah Lee Seay Stout) born February 28, 1939, in Dallas, Texas, died April 10, 2013, in Dallas. Sally was the daughter of Charles Eugene Seay and Sarah Lee “Sadie” Meadows. Sadie was the great-granddaughter of Betty Holmsley.

Lowell Longmire (Lowell Kenneth Longmire) born August 1, 1931 in Rockdale, Texas, died March 25, 2013, Anderson County, Texas. Lowell was the son of Shapard Longmire and Mary Lou Cunningham. Mary Lou was the granddaughter of Richard Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Vera Powell (Vera Rado Jones Powell) born August 9, 1919, in Comanche County, Texas, died March 14, 2013, in Cavendish, Idaho. Vera was also the sister of Ellen and Ruby Joe (above). The three sisters all died with a few weeks of one another.

Nancy Wasson (Nancy Ellen Cunningham Wasson) born April 5, 1938, in Houston, Texas, died March 6, 2013, in Gatesville. Nancy was the daughter of David “Herbert” Cunningham and Blanche Ellen “Helen” Weatherhead. Herbert was the grandson of Aaron Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

David Goodson (David Herbert Goodson) born Feb 9, 1942, Mineral Wells, Texas, died Decemeber 22, 2012, Abilene, Texas. David was married to Virginia “Ruth” Robertson, the daughter of Virginia Wood. Ruth is the great-great-granddaughter of David Cunningham of the original 12 Cunninghams.

Bill Cunningham (William Aaron Cunningham, Jr.) born November 26, 1933, in San Angelo, Texas, died October 6, 2012, in Wenatchee, Washington. Son of William Aaron Cunningham, Sr., and Mary Eugenia Bolling. William (Sr.) was the grandson of Aaron Cunningham.

Joyce Ellis (Joyce Ann Willis Ellis) born November 9, 1933, Comanche, Texas, died September 5, 2012, Alvin. Daughter of George Robert Willis and Alma Irene “Peggy” Hamilton. George was the grandson of Unity Lewis.

Aubrey Willis (Aubrey Buckner Willis) born February 7, 1919, in Midlothian County, Texas, died July 15, 2012, in New Braunfels, Texas. Aubrey was married to Jim Pete Willis who was the grandson of Unity Lewis.

Jessica Reese Cunningham

In David Houston Cunningham, James Washington Cunningham, Obituary on June 24, 2012 at 11:00 pm

We lost a member of our family last week. Jessica Cunningham died from cancer at 75 years old. She was always a faithful reunion attendee and brought kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids each year. Last year’s youngest was the newest member of Jessica’s family.

Last year at the reunion, Jessica’s camera refused to take more pictures because the SD card was full. She didn’t want to delete any pictures she had on it, so to solve the problem, I dumped all her photos onto my computer and sent her a CD of her photos when I got home. I glanced through some of the pictures she had taken the night before the reunion when she and all her family were gathered at a bed-and-breakfast in Comanche. It looked like they were having a ball with little children all over that house and a great group around the table of adults playing cards and laughing. They were having a great reunion.

After going to her funeral and thinking about her a lot this week, I looked through those pictures again. I hadn’t realized how far back they went. It may have only been a few months, but there were so many pictures of Jessica and her family and activities and trips. In just that short time there were pictures of a grandchild’s wedding, at least one grandchild’s graduation, a trip to San Francisco, and pictures of Jessica zip-lining and jet-skiing! This was one active, involved woman. But most of the pictures that had her in them were group pictures:  her with her four kids, her with her grandchildren, and picture after picture with great-grandchildren, with one, two, three, or four snuggled up to her in a recliner or on the couch, with everyone all smiles. There is no doubt she will be missed by her family. She was truly loved and gave out a lot of love.

Here is a picture of Jessica in San Francisco that captured her spirit, I thought:

jessica 222

If you didn’t know Jessica, she was related to us in a couple of ways. When her grandfather’s first wife died at age 27, he remarried to Martha Elsamina Cunningham Bumpas, the daughter of David Houston Cunningham of the original 12 children of the Cunningham family, and the widow of Robert Bumpas. So Jessica was a step-Cunningham with her grandfather’s marriage. But then she married Donald Winfield Cunningham, the great-grandson of James Washington Cunningham of the original 12.

She was also related to some of us in other ways. Her grandmother that died at age 27 had an older brother who was my great-grandfather and he married into the Cunningham family. I talked to Harold Perkins at the funeral and he was related to Jessica through her mother, who was a Perkins (I believe she was Harold’s aunt). In a close-knit community like Comanche, there are going to be lots of ways of relating.

Last year at the reunion I bought a wandering Jew at the silent auction that Jessica’s son Scot brought. He often brings gorgeous plants and I am always eager to get one. This one also had a stray cutting from a green plant and he had a big plant like that for the auction, too. Jessica told me a wonderful story about that plant.

She said that that plant (I think it is a night-blooming cereus, but I’m not certain) belonged to her mother, Emma Reese. She had inherited it and had had it for years, but had never seen it bloom, partially because it blooms in the night. She said after her husband died, she was filled with grief and a couple of months after he died she was having a particularly hard night and could not sleep. She got up in the middle of the night and went into another part of the house and saw this plant in bloom. She said it was her sign that all was well and he was okay and she would be, too. The plant has meant a lot to their family and they had it near, even at the graveside service in Oakwood this week. I am very proud to have a piece of that plant, too, and will always remember Jessica and her family when I see it.

Jessica’s obituary is online from the Victoria Advocate and was also in the Comanche Chief.

Some members of the family have made a donation to the Cunningham family in Jessica’s name. If you would like to remember her in that way, you can send a check to “Cunningham Reunion” at 504 N. Elm, Comanche, TX 76442.