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In Memoriam: Norma Cunningham, former board member, dies at 100

Norma Cunningham
Norma and Joseph Cunningham ‘s wedding photo from Dec. 23, 1953.

Norma Steines Cunningham, long-time member and former Executive Board member of FFRF, died April 11.

Norma was a Life Member of FFRF, as is her husband, Joseph, and both have served on the Executive Board almost from its formation.

Norma was born Oct. 28, 1917, and grew up in St. Louis, where she was the valedictorian of the large Cleveland High School class of 1935, and earned a full four-year scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis.

Norma earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939, and the same year received the Jesse Bar Fellowship Award, with which she acquired a master’s degree in Latin in 1940. She also is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. In addition, she served as co-chair of the Arts & Sciences Century Leadership Club of Washington University.

After graduation, she taught in St. Louis area schools for four years before moving to Mascoutah, Ill., in 1944. She worked in the Mascoutah High School for 31 years, teaching Latin, German and English. At Mascoutah, Norma was chair of the school’s Fine Arts department, also served on the Mascoutah Library board for many years and as a member of the Literary Society.

In December 1953, she married Joseph Cunningham, who was also a teacher at Mascoutah High School. They have two daughters — Kathryn, an attorney; and Linda, a medical doctor — and five grandchildren: Andrew, Sarah, Benjamin, Grace, and Alex.

Norma’s hobbies were reading and researching the genealogy of her paternal ancestors, Herman and Frederick Steines, who were pioneers in the St. Louis area in the 1830s. Norma and Joe spent many years traveling with their children, going to all 50 states plus Canada; and also visiting Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan and China.

Norma used her fluency in German to translate the detailed diaries and letters from 1830-1835 of her great-grandfather, Herman Steines, and great-great uncle, Frederick Steines, who immigrated from Germany. These documents were printed into two large volumes and were donated to the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis City Library, and many relatives.

Her other interests include reading classical literature, listening to classical music, working crossword puzzles, and cooking. A few years ago, Norma entered the Southwestern Illinois Spelling Bee contest and won first place, often correcting the host’s pronunciation of various words.

Norma spent many happy hours entertaining family and friends over large elaborate meals at her beautifully set dining room table. She also was a recipe tester for Betty Crocker, sending in her comments and suggestions on improving the originals.

She loved flowers, particularly roses, visiting the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and was skilled at flower arrangement with blooms from her garden. Norma’s favorite TV program was “Jeopardy!” She recently got all five of the week’s Final Jeopardy questions correct.

Norma resided at the Silver Creek Assisted Living home in Mascoutah for the past five years, where she hosted family and friends for her 100th birthday celebration in October 2017.

“Norma was an extraordinarily loving wife, mother, and grandmother,” daughter Linda Cunningham said. “She was very proud of the accomplishments of her daughters and grandchildren, and took great pleasure in each one of their achievements.”