In Memory

James Cunningham

James Cunningham

In loving memory of our dear classmate





James “Jim” Ray Cunningham’s Obituary


In loving memory of James “Jim” “Jimmy” Ray Cunningham


February 12, 1947


November 27, 2020


Jim was born on February 12, 1947, in Dallas Texas to William Raple Cunningham and Mary Francis Whitney Cunningham. He was preceded in death by his parents William Raple Cunningham, Mary Francis Whitney Cunningham, and brother William Roy “Billy” Cunningham. Jim is survived by his wife Beth Holcomb Cunningham of 53 years, sister Donna Cunningham Hopkins and husband Pat Hopkins. Daughter, Jacqueline Dawn Cunningham Tomchesson, husband Thadd Tomchesson, son James Matthew Cunningham, wife Ashley Cunningham. Also survived by his nine grandchildren, Megan Melcer, husband Matthew Melcer, Morgan Tomchesson, McKenzie Cunningham, Chandler White, Madison Tomchesson, Mason Tomchesson, Kyndall Cunningham, Carsyn Cunningham, Copeland Cunningham Anderson many nieces and nephews.

Jim served in the United States Air Force 1966 -1970, as a Chaplain’s assistant during the Vietnam war. After the war, the Cunningham family settled in Houston, TX, and Jim worked many years in the lumber industry with Boise Cascade. Jim was an avid hunter and enjoyed his 20 years of hunting at his ranch, J&B ranch in Mountain Home, TX. He was a huge Astros enthusiast, attending as many games as he could. His number one goal was to leave behind a legacy for his family to enjoy for years to come.

 Jim will be remembered for his hard work and dedication. He was recognized by the Houston Independent School District for supporting his son’s high school baseball team. He donated the material to build dugouts and the announcer’s box. 

Jim participated in many charitable organizations such as Heart Association, Cancer Association, St Jude’s, Wounded Warriors, to name a few.  He always supported our youth by contributing to The Greater Houston Charitable Foundation for college scholarships. 

Jim’s love for all thing’s family and Carrie Underwood. His recent venture included a lake house on Livingston, that he was in the middle of remodeling to fit the entire family. The grandchildren will continue to live in his honor and carry on the Cunningham family traditions.

Celebration of Life to be held on Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 2 P.M. at Shirley Acres located at 217 Woerner, Houston, Texas 77090.

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12/02/20 01:35 PM #1    

Barbara Kelly (Okerberg)

I really appreciate learning about Jim Cunningham's death.  Beth, I have many wonderful memories of you and Jimmy in high school!  Dave and I will certainly keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. I hope your celebration of Jimmy's life will give you many wonderful memories.

Barbara Kelly Okerberg 

12/07/20 10:55 PM #2    

Robert (Ben) Carbo

Eulogy for James Ray Cunningham

“A man who loved his family and gave his all for them”

Given in heartfelt love for Jim and Beth by his friend Ben Carbo

December 6, 2020


I was honored beyond measure when Beth asked me to give the eulogy for my dear friend Jim.  A eulogy is not an end to a legacy.  It is just the beginning, especially in Jim’s case, because of the great legacy he leaves that has impacted the lives of so many.   This is not goodbye, Jim.  Though you are no longer physically with us, your legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of all who loved you and everyone whose lives you touched along the way.

Jim was my friend.  We met at Black Jr. High in Houston shortly after his family moved there from Dallas.  We got to be close friends while we rode the bench on the Black football team.  Jim finally got off the bench when he became the kicker on kick offs and extra points.   Boy could he kick a football!  Jim would give me a ride home after football practice every day on the motorbike his dad bought him on his 14th birthday. 

I remember often going over to his house on Chamboard street where his mother would always offer me a big glass of ice tea served from the 30 cup coffee maker she always kept filled for her many friends who would drop by for a visit. 

Early in the summer of 1963, Jim and I went to work for his dad who managed the WH Morris Lumber Yard in Houston.  His dad showed us a large lumber shed situated along a railroad siding and told us to tear it down, but he failed to say exactly how to go about it. Armed with crowbars, hard hats and work gloves, we got right to work.  At the end of the day, we were proud of what we had accomplished until Mr. Cunningham came out of the office and was shocked by what he saw.  We had completely removed all the walls with only the wall studs remaining while the roof was swaying in the wind about to collapse.  That was our first lesson learned in the art of demolition and Jim’s introduction into the lumber and building supply business.  I was proud to be a part of it.

During our sophomore year Jim did something that had the biggest impact of any single event ever on my life.  We had both ended relationships with steady girlfriends, or to be more accurate our girlfriends’ mothers actually ended them.  Jim and I (both available) were having lunch in the Waltrip High School cafeteria. On that fateful day, shy Jim asked me to go over to where Kay Wynn was sitting a couple of tables away and ask her if she would go out with him.  At first I told Jim that he needed to ask her.  Then, I realized it would give me an excuse to talk to the girl who had already caught my eye earlier that year.  When I came back to the table, I informed Jimmy that Kay had accepted, but not with him.  That was 57 years ago, and I was with her since that day until her death in April of this year.  I owe it all to Jimmy.

One day on the football practice field at Waltrip High School, one of our teammates, Bernard Ash, told me he was going to steal Kay away from me.  He was not the first, nor was he the last, to tell me that for Kay had caught the eye of every boy in high school.  Jim overheard Bernard.  Before I could react Jim tore into poor Bernard (God rest his soul) and beat him all over the practice field until Bernard got in a lucky punch and knocked out one of Jim’s front teeth.  Jim was one who was always ready to defend the honor of a friend.  I guess he inherited that noble trait from his family ancestor who died while defending the honor of Texas at the Alamo.

Kay and I married within nine months of high school graduation.  Jim was an usher at our wedding and stood ready to take on anyone who dared to steal Kay away at the last moment.   It took Jim until his senior year to find the love of his life, Beth Holcombe, and they followed us in marriage nine months later on December 17, 1966. Not wasting any time, Jim and Beth had their first born, Jacqueline, nine months later on September 12, 1967.

Jim, Bill Polk, and I joined the US Air Force on the buddy system on April 21st 1966.  Jim and Bill went to Lackland AFB in San Antonio for basic training, and I for some unknown reason, was ordered to Basic Training in Amarillo at an overflow basic training facility. So much for the buddy system.  Jim spent his entire Air Force enlistment in San Antonio becoming a chaplain’s assistance and later at Brookes AFB, due to his impressive administrative skills, worked directly for a general managing all of his affairs. 

Upon Jim’s discharge from the Air Force in February, 1970, he jumped right into his father’s career path in the lumber business, bringing his administrative skills along with him.  Beth gave birth to their second born Matthew on August 1, 1971.  Providing for his growing family, Jim quickly rose up the corporate ladder and was put in charge of an entire region.

Jim and Beth made their home with their two children on Lamonte Street in Garden Oaks.  Jim made the home a place for Jackie and Matt to entertain all of their friends and even put in a pool which made the Cunningham home the neighborhood community center.  Jim loved entertaining his children’s friends, something he inherited from his mother who always had the iced tea ready to serve anyone who happened to drop by. 

Jim, who was all about family, purchased a ranch in Mountain Home, Texas in 1990  for his family to enjoy.  While living in camper trailers on the property his son Matt, son-in-law Thadd, brother-in-law Pat, and a whole host of other family members and friends pitched in and built what was to become the J&B Ranch.  Jim and family enjoyed hunting at the ranch for 20 years.  Jim sold the ranch to Dr. Dilly in January of this year.  Jim’s last wishes were to have a portion of his ashes spread over the grounds of the ranch. Dr. Dilly has graciously agreed to honor Jim’s wishes.  Jim also directed that the remainder of the ashes be interred in the Houston Veterans Cemetery. 

Twenty years ago, Jim had serious heart issues, and the doctor told him that he had six months to live, but if he retired from his fast paced job he might live a little longer.  Jim was in and out of the hospital over the years, but he refused to give up because of Beth’s devotion to him in good times and bad throughout their 53 years of marriage.  He idolized Beth who watched over him throughout his years of bad health and that kept him motivated to live to enjoy their life together.  Just the other day, I was talking to a fellow classmate who told me that the last time she talked to Jim all he could talk about was Beth and the children and their nine grandchildren. 

Kay and I reunited with Jim and Beth a little over fifty years after we graduated from high school. We had invited them to our 50th wedding anniversary.  I had prepared to tell the story of Jim’s part in getting Kay and me together during our high school days.  Jim had one of his health episodes which forced him into the hospital the day of the anniversary party.  Jim called from the hospital to tell us he wouldn’t be able to make it.  We visited with him at the hospital a few days afterward. 

I reconnected with him again last June.  Bill Polk and I went to see him and Beth at their lake house on Lake Livingston.  Beth served us a delicious lunch, and we had a good time reminiscing about the old days and sharing about our families.  Jim, as always, told us how faithful Beth had been over the years putting up with him and caring for him. Then he went on and on about his children and grandchildren.

The last time I saw Jim was at the memorial service for my wife, Kay, in September.  As hard as it was for him to make the trip, he couldn’t be dissuaded not to go.  I made sure that he and Beth had seats in front as I stood at the podium and told the story of how Jim brought Kay into my life.

I will miss my dear friend Jim and will always be grateful for having a friend who always had my back. 

 Beth, Donna, Jackie, Matt, Megan, Morgan, McKenzie, Chandler, Madison, Mason, Kyndall, Casyn, Copeland, and the rest of Jim’s family and many friends, I say to you, you haven’t lost Jim.  You know right where he is today.  Jim is in Heaven with his Lord Jesus Christ bragging unashamedly about you Beth and the family that he adores.  That is what we come here to celebrate today, the legacy of a man who loved his family and gave his all for them.

12/08/20 12:03 AM #3    

Robert (Ben) Carbo

Bill Polk wasn't able to attend Jim's memorial service due to his sweet wife Becky's recent surgery, but he asked me to share the tribute that he wrote in the service and it is included below. 

Jim Cunningham was my friend.  We met while attending Black Jr. High.  It was about 1962 and we remailned friends through High school at Waltrip.  Looking back, I can see clearly that my friendship with Jim had a direct impact on the rest of my life and it continues to this day.  I had other friends, but Jim was one of them who affected me in a positive way.  Ben Carbo was another one. Jim was always dedicated to those who he was close to and he didn't hold back in letting anyone know where he stood on the values that were important to him.  I respected that and it was one of the reasons that Jim, Ben and I chose to volunteer for military service during the Vietnam War.  It was a time when our country was divided, but we stood united to serve with pride in representing our school and our country.

I truly belived that both Jim and his beautiful wife, Beth, were naural born matchmakers.  Beth introduced me to Kay Mcham who I later married.  Jim also had a part in the introduction of Ben to Kay Wynn and they also married.

It has been said that when you look at a tombstone you see numbers that represent the year a person was born followed by a dash, and then the year of that person's death. However, the period of time that is most important is the dash because it is during that time that one lives thier life and develops as a person.  It is a time when you affect the lives of others, either in a positve or a negative way.  Jim's life affected me in a positive way and I am grateful to him for that.

Rest in peace my dear friend, until we meet again.

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