Eileen Alice Cunningham, mother, sister, teacher and friend died June 30.
The daughter of deceased parents Annie and Michael Ward of Leitrim and Roscommon, Ireland, Mrs. Cunningham was born May 20, 1942, in Manhattan. Described by her family as “incredibly loving and incredibly loved,” the mother of three is survived by her children John Michael, Anne Marie, and Eileen Mary; Anne’s husband David Pugh; and her grandchildren Seamus Martin and Fiona Anne Pugh.
Her family said her abiding love for family was reflected in her close relationships with her sisters Eleanor Acer and Mary Crouch, and her brother-in-law, Woody Crouch, her cherished cousins, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, godchildren, and friends.
Described as a gifted teacher with a true calling, Mrs. Cunningham dedicated more than 30 years to the New York City Board of Education. She graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in elementary education, and began her career in the Bronx, instructing the City’s youngest students. By the time she concluded her teaching career, she was instructing the next generation of teachers with her patented combination of innovation, understanding, and encouragement. She led by example, pioneering a ”buddy program” between local junior high and elementary students, and demonstrating teaching techniques drawn from her long experience. According to her family, she “worked true magic,” and “amazed other teachers with her ability to calm an unruly lunchroom filled with hundreds of students without once raising her voice or losing sight of her connection with each individual child.”
Mrs. Cunningham was also a union representative for her elementary school, lobbying locally and nationally for better teaching conditions and greater support and respect for all teachers.
Dedication to community and parish life was important to Mrs. Cunningham. She held numerous executive positions in the Scarsdale Neighborhood Association and spent more than a decade teaching CCD religious classes at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Scarsdale, New York.
Mrs. Cunningham’s family said she spent her life curious about the world and adventurous in her travels, and she imparted her love of history, art, and music to her children, grandchildren, family and friends. They said she had a lifelong love for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she spent happy hours absorbing art, ancient to modern. She had a deep love for theater, they said, especially enjoying Shakespeare in the Park and the George Bernard Shaw Festival in Canada. She was also a supporter of The Irish Repertory Theater in New York.
Mrs. Cunningham’s family said they will remember her in the way she spent some of her happiest moments — under an umbrella on a Cape Cod beach, sun hat on and mystery novel in hand, surrounded by her family.