Taylor Cunningham, 18, athlete at Hereford High

March 04, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Taylor Cunningham, a Hereford High School senior honors student who was co-captain and goalie of its varsity lacrosse team, died early Tuesday at York General Hospital after the car he was driving skidded on an icy road and struck a utility pole in southern Pennsylvania. He was 18 and lived in Upperco.

Mr. Cunningham's death marked the latest in a series of tragedies to strike students and recent alumni of the school. In November, Joseph Baseman, a ninth-grader, was killed in an automobile accident, and earlier last fall, two Marines, both members of the Class of 2002, were killed in Iraq.

"It's been a real tough week here. When someone like Taylor is cut down in the prime of life, it's such a tragedy," said Kevin L. Ensor, Hereford High's college counselor. "One thing you can say about Taylor was that he was passionate about life -- he was a well-connected student -- who always gave 100 percent. He was an intense athlete, had great leaderships skills, and was looking forward to college."

Mr. Cunningham's favorite color was lime green, and yesterday students, faculty and administrators wore lime-green ribbons in his memory.

"Taylor always had a smile on his face and had an outgoing personality. While he liked to kid around, he took his academic work very seriously. School and sports were very important to him, and he was just a great all-around kid," John E. O'Brien, the school's assistant principal, said yesterday. "This is so hard on everybody and the kids are saddened once again, but this is a tight-knit community and we'll help each other get through this."

Mr. Cunningham was born in Baltimore and raised in Upperco. His interest in sports developed early, and he was 6 years old when he began playing lacrosse for the Hereford Recreation Council.

When he entered Hereford High, Mr. Cunningham played tackle for two years on the junior varsity football team and was co-captain of the wrestling team and a Baltimore County wrestling champion.

But lacrosse remained his first love. He attended lacrosse camp at the University of Maryland, where he was named one of the most outstanding defensive players.

"This was going to be his year. He was going to be our starting goalie. This has really hit us hard. We heard about Taylor on Tuesday, the day before we were to start lacrosse practice for the season," said Steve Turnbaugh, who coaches football and lacrosse at Hereford High.

""He was a nice, nice, nice kid and I never heard anyone say anything derogatory about him. The whole school is literally shocked about what happened. We're all just devastated," he said.

"The team is going to wear `T.C.' on their helmets, and they'll have them by next week. I'm also going to make sure that his brother, Conor, 14, who plays lacrosse, will have a set for his helmet," Mr. Turnbaugh said.

Kimberly Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham's mother, said lacrosse was her son's "ultimate passion and he liked showing rec council kids how to string their sticks and with their shots."

Mr. Cunningham had been accepted to Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Va., where he planned to study engineering and play lacrosse.

He also was an accomplished snowboarder and had just returned from a trips to Killington, Vt., and Whiteface Mountain, N.Y., where he enjoyed the sport.

He was also a hunter and avid fisherman who regularly fished the streams, ponds and reservoirs in northern Baltimore County as well as in the Caribbean and Mexico.

"He also liked exploring the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County with his dad and brothers," his mother said. "He also had an artistic side and enjoyed drawing cars, landscapes, buildings, flowers and portraits in pencil. They were always very detailed."

She added: "He was a very special young man to us, his school, and his community."

Mr. Cunningham had been named to Who's Who Among American High School Students and was a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Upperco.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Eline Funeral Home, 914 S. Main St., Hampstead.

Also surviving are his father, Matthew S. Cunningham III; another brother, Matthew S. Cunningham IV; his paternal grandparents, Matthew S. Cunningham II and Dessie Cunningham of Easton; maternal grandparents Dick and Nancy Dum of Lutherville; and aunts, uncles and cousins.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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