ROSCOE DAVID CUNNINGHAM, age 97 of Lawrenceville, Illinois died on Saturday, November 28, 2020 surrounded by his loving family. He was born on September 15, 1923 in Lukin to Roscoe and Bessie Cooper Cunningham.
He married his beloved Katheryn Suzanne (Ramsey) Cunningham on May 01, 1954 at the First Christian Church in Lawrenceville. Together they shared 64 years of joyful marriage and raised five children.
Graduating from Sumner High School in Sumner, Illinois in 1941, Cunningham always attributed his love of learning, and his ability to eloquently quote poetry to his education at “Sumner High”. Attending the University of Illinois after high school, his education was temporarily put on hold as he served his country in World War II European Operations. Cunningham proudly served in the United States Army, Rainbow Division 4th Operations as a forward Observer with the artillery division. Assignments involved aeronautical observation of the dropping of bombs on enemy locations. He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946, with the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
Cunningham returned to U of I after WWII, earned a JD from the School of Law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1948. He returned to Lawrence County and practiced law for over 72 years.
A successful Attorney, Businessman and Community Leader, Roscoe Cunningham leaves a lasting legacy on this community. Always civic and community minded, he earned a reputation as a legend. One of Lawrence County’s most vocal advocates - he was this area’s champion for progress and was awarded the Key to the City by Lawrenceville in 2018. Roscoe served as States Attorney for four terms, the Illinois State Legislature for four terms and Delegate to the Republican National Convention for three sessions. He participated in more than 20 election campaigns and always delighted in the political process - meeting with constituents and helping those in need.
As Illinois State Representative for the 54th District, Cunningham was determined to make his district heard. He spoke eloquently from the House Floor and when he spoke everyone listened. It was reported, “The only time the AP Wire Press Box picked up their pencils for quotes from the Illinois Legislature was when Representative Cunningham got up to speak.” In later years, memories of speaking on the House Floor, Cunningham recalled competition for the singular microphone was similar to battling one hundred eighty-four male peacocks for attention.
Believing “all it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing”, Cunningham always made community service a priority.
One contribution that he was particularly proud of was the establishment and flourishment of Cunningham’s Golden Age Club #1. From 1958 through 1998 Members of GAC #1 participated in bus trips, parades and enjoyed regular social gatherings held weekly at the Lawrenceville Courthouse. In its heyday GAC #1 had more than 100 members. Cunningham reminisced on the “memorable delights that numerous older Lawrence Countians enriched our life, and we theirs.”
Active member for 66 years at First Christian Church, Cunningham felt Sunday School was a particularly important part of church and enjoyed his years as a Sunday School teacher - encouraging and influencing the development of many young students. Cunningham was also a Master Mason of the Sumner Masonic Lodge, Rebecca Job’s Daughters, a lifetime member of the V.F.W Post 2244, American Legion, Moose Lodge, Elks, Kiwanis, Lawrence County Shrine Club, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Rotary and Lawrence County Republicans.
One of his favorite bible verses was Luke 9:62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Instilled since childhood, this verse inspired him to rescue his hometown newspaper, The Sumner Press in 1987 - at an age most people would be thinking about retiring. Actively publishing and writing the widely read and popular: “Roscoe’s Journal”, “Lawrence County Countywide” and “World Wide Digest”, it was a source of joy, and the academic man’s golf game for over 33 years. As time progressed, he also added The Bridgeport Leader and St. Francisville Times pages to offer community news to each of these towns. His determined efforts ensured The Sumner Press is the longest running, locally owned newspaper in Southern Illinois. Electronic copies of the Sumner Press are available digitally serving as a historical record of community activities and have always been provided free as a community service.
The close-knit Cunningham family has worked together in several business ventures and also enjoyed many family trips and wonderful vacations. Visiting almost every State Capital and Presidential Library, as well as traveling adventures: diamond mining in Arkansas, riding to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on Mules with the Grandchildren, cruising Biscayne Bay and snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Roscoe cherished his weekly ice skating at Swonder Ice Arena up until the age 75 with “the poetry in motion skating club”. An avid bridge enthusiast - lively family bridge tournaments were ensued every Sunday afternoon. Many happy memories were made at the Kentucky Derby and Ellis Race Track Park with family and friends. Many will remember seeing him on evening bike rides with children and/or grandchildren en tow on tandem. As late as 87, he biked from Sumner to Olney for the worthy Special Olympic cause. With a joie de vivre, he truly knew how to make every moment count - an asset he instilled in his children and grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his cherished bride, Kay on May 07, 2018; his loving parents, Roscoe and Bessie Cunningham; two sisters, Mary Ellen Cunningham and Martha Brookhart; and one brother, Joseph Cooper Cunningham.
Surviving family includes: five children - R.D. Cunningham, Evanston, Illinois, Jan Cunningham Sauvigné and husband, John, Miami, Florida, Jonathan Edward Cunningham, Miami, Florida, Michael A. Cunningham and wife, Tricia, Grayville, Illinois, and Lorie Cunningham and fiancé, David Joseph Lane, Lawrenceville, Illinois; one twin sister - Ruth Simms, Bridgeport, Illinois; one sister-in-law, Eileen Cunningham, Sumner, Illinois; seven grandchildren - John Michael Sauvigné and wife, Sallie, Asheville, North Carolina, Katheryn Cecile Sauvigné, Miami, Florida, Michaella Lynn Cunningham, Megan Elizabeth Massie and husband, Colton, and Madelyn Claire Cunningham, Grayville, Illinois, Victoria Anne Noel Shinkle and Thomas Andrew Shinkle, Lawrenceville, Illinois; and several loved nieces and nephews.
Private services for the family will be conducted with Masonic Rites. Extended family and friends are welcome to view the service on Wednesday, December 02, 2020 at 11:00 AM CST with the following link: https://www.facebook.com/Emmons-Macey-Steffey-Funeral-Home-Burial-Cremation-Services-241234759332208/. The family extends an invitation to the community to line State Street from the First Christian Church to 18th Street, for a final salute during the procession to the cemetery at 12:00 PM CST. Burial will be in the Lawrenceville City Cemetery, with military rites provided by the V.F.W.
Memorial donations may be made to the First Christian Church or the Lawrence County Senior Citizens - in honor of the Golden Age Club #1.
Condolences or special memories of Roscoe may be emailed to the family at: email@example.com.
Emmons-Macey & Steffey Funeral Home in Lawrenceville, Illinois is in charge of the arrangements.
To send flowers to Roscoe's family, please visit our floral store.