Two noteworthy events took place in October in 1929. First, James Harvey Cunningham was born on October 2nd to Mildred and James “Harry” Cunningham of Chicago, Illinois. Second, the stock market crashed and the baby’s life was forever shaped by The Great Depression. After his father died in 1934, Jimmy’s mother placed him in the Klingberg Children’s Home to be raised with a handful of similarly disadvantaged children. Five years later, Mildred met and married Christian Walter, a Manson, Iowa high school graduate. Jimmy lived with them in various Chicago apartments and hotel rooms until 1944 when, barely into his teen years, he said good-bye and moved to Manson. Throughout his junior high and high school years, young Jim slopped 150 head of hogs, fed 300 chickens, cared for a team of workhorses, planted and picked corn, put up hay, churned butter, and grew to love the hard work and stability he found on the George Hermann farm. For Jim, there was no challenge too large to conquer and no machine too broken to fix.
After high school graduation in 1948, Jim began a pen pal relationship with a fellow children’s home alumnus, Dorisann Hill. They soon bonded over mutual experiences as “homekids” and their deeply rooted faith in Jesus Christ. The couple married in March 1951 and settled in Manson. Uncle Sam came calling the following year and Dorisann joined Jim in Salzburg, Austria, where he proudly served as a Corporal in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps Camp Truscott Rail Operations Office. The Cunninghams returned in 1954, started a family, and began the never-ending task of refurbishing an historic home beside the railroad tracks on the west end of town.
For the next 46 years, Jim spent his days printing calendars at The Dalton Press and his evenings and weekends were devoted to serving to the community he cherished. His various volunteer roles included Cub Scout Master for Pack 95; custodian for the United Church of Christ; member of numerous city and county boards; and officer positions with the VFW, American Legion, and Calhoun County Commission of Veteran Affairs.
Jim retired from The Dalton Press in 1997 but he wasn’t ready for the rocking chair. He had already completed small-engine repair classes and an automobile restoration course at Iowa Central Community College, so he restored several antique cars. He previously finished a course in commercial truck driving, so he trained as an Emergency Medical Technician in order to serve with the Manson ambulance team. And when the United Church of Christ was unable to fill many open pastoral positions, he went back to school, completed his training, and at the age of 77 began preaching from the pulpit for more than a dozen years at the United Church of Christ in Eagle Grove.
In his later years, Jim spent most of his time caring for Dorisann, and she for him. He found joy reading and writing poetry. He once ended a letter to his son, “Tie a little string around your finger so you’ll remember me. Any little thing to make me linger in your memory.” Jim Cunningham went home to the Lord on Friday, January 7, 2022 but he will forever linger in the memories of those he faithfully served and in the hearts of those who loved him. Friends and family are invited to “tie a little string around their finger” when they say good-bye at the visitation and funeral service.
Services will be held at the United Church of Christ – Congregational in Manson on Thursday, January 13 at 2:00 p.m. with visitation from 12:30 until service time. Facemasks are required, or livestreaming will be available at this website by clicking on the box at the bottom of the obituary. Burial will be in Rose Hill Cemetery in Manson. Survivors include his wife Dorisann; their three children James (Lorna) Cunningham of Edgewater, MD; Robert (Cathy) Cunningham of West Des Moines, IA; Constance (Kevin) Hansen of Cedar Falls, IA; five grandchildren and five great grandchildren; and stepbrother Melvin Walter.