Robert B. Cunningham, railroader, dies

World War II veteran had been a volunteer

  • Robert Cunningham
Robert Cunningham
February 08, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Robert B. Cunningham, a retired railroader and World War II Navy veteran, died Saturday of complications from a stroke at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The Perry Hall resident was 92.

Mr. Cunningham, whose father was a World War I veteran and died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 and whose mother was a buyer for the old O'Neill's department store, was born in Baltimore.

He was raised in a home across from Clifton Park, where he caddied for 75 cents a game and taught himself to play by copying the best players, family members said.

Mr. Cunningham attended Loyola High School and graduated in 1936 from City College. After graduating from high school, he went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a $12-a-week messenger and was later promoted to clerk.

While working for the railroad during the day, he studied typing and stenography at night at Strayer Business College.

He joined the Navy in 1941, and for the first two years of his service career, worked in the recruiting station at Calvert and Fayette streets in downtown Baltimore.

In 1943, Mr. Cunningham was assigned as chief yeoman to the USS Ancon.

The ship transported high-ranking naval officers in the Pacific. From the ship, he witnessed the Okinawa invasion and the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

"While its sister ships were attacked by enemy airplanes and submarines, the Ancon came through the war unscathed, an outcome he attributed to dumb luck," said a daughter, Mary Gail Hare, a Baltimore Sun reporter, who lives in Essex.

After being discharged from the Navy, Mr. Cunningham returned to the B&O and at the time of his 1979 retirement from successor CSX was benefits manager.

The former longtime Govans resident who later lived in Mays Chapel was an avid golfer — playing three times a week — until about a year and a half ago. He had made two holes in one, both at Clifton Park.

In his retirement, Mr. Cunningham volunteered at Beans and Bread, a Fells Point soup kitchen, St. Joseph Medical Center and St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton.

His wife of 50 years, the former Mildred M. Quinn, died in 1993. He was married in 1995 to the former Mary D. Weil, whom he had known during his teenage years and then lost track of. They became reacquainted after both had lost their spouses.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph's Church, 8420 Belair Road.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Cunningham is survived by four sons, R. Bruce Cunningham of Timonium, John R. Cunningham of Baltimore, Mark K. Cunningham of Perry Hall and Joseph V. Cunningham of Sicily; three other daughters, Constance A. Hiegel of Towson, Claudia R. Walk of Timonium and Mary Catherine Gomprecht of Marriottsville; two stepsons, Walter Weil of Eldersburg and Robert Weil of Bel Air; four stepdaughters, Betty Buckley of Abingdon, Barbara Walsh of Baltimore, Mimi Sleishman of New Freedom, Pa., and Suzanne Ameringer of Richmond, Va.; 18 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; 11 step-grandchildren; and seven step-great-grandchildren. Another son, Anthony E. Cunningham, died in 1994.

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