Mark and I first met in the summer of 1964 at the Trappist monastary in Ava, MO. I can't remember the circumstances that led us to that place, but I do remember eating our meals, served by the ancient Brother Barnabus, in the guest dining room. Listening to George Kessler, a theology professor at Rockhurst College, voicing his opinion about dang near everything. (George used an ivory cigarette holder to smoke his non filter Camels.)
Every morning after breakfast, Mark and I would walk down the gravel road to Bryant Creek and walk across the swinging bridge to the concrete plant where we would stack blocks. We worked monk's hours. This was the beginning of a life-long friendship.
Time passed, Mark joined the Air Force and was deployed to Thailand. He liked Thailand. When he got discharged, he moved to Detroit and worked for Ryder Truck Rental. He got married, divorced, retired and moved back to Springfield, in roughly that order.
Mark wrote everything down. The last time we had lunch together, at a small Mexican restaurant on South Campbell across from O'Reilly's, he wrote down the details of our conversation in a small spiral notebook. I made fun of him for doing so. He told me he wanted to chronicle the events so he could re-live them. He shoulda been a blogger.
Mark was a kind and gentle person who died of a heart attack on Tuesday. He was 61.
His funeral mass is tomorrow at 1 PM at St. Joseph's Catholic Church on North Campbell in Springfield.
He will be missed.
As published in the SN-L, Mark's obituary:
Mark Stephen Cunningham, 61, of Springfield, was born February 6, 1947, in Independence, Mo., and passed away January 27, 2009, in Springfield. Mark graduated from St. Agnes High School in 1965, and attended SMSU and the University of Washington at Puget Sound. He was an Air Force veteran who served with distinction in the Philippines and Thailand. He retired from Ryder Truck Leasing, where he was a district manager for Detroit and Dearborn, Mich., after 25 years of service. He was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and was a CASA volunteer. He was preceded in death by his parents, one brother and one sister. He is survived by two brothers, Philip and wife, Gail Cunningham, and John Cunningham; and eight nephews and one niece. Mark was a kind, generous man who always found the good in everyone. He will be deeply missed. Funeral mass will be held in St. Joseph's Catholic Church at 1 p.m. Saturday, January 31, 2009. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Joseph's Church building fund.
from the bus garage, January 30, 2009