In Remembrance

 

John K. Cunningham, Sr

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Nettie B. Cunningham

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John K. Cunningham, Sr. began his journey as a precocious young boy with a passion for science and a God-given gift in art. During his youth John worked as a young cartoonist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch Newspaper. While attending Charles Sumner High School, John began working with the Historical Gates Funeral Home, where he assisted and learned every aspect of the funeral business under the guidance and mentorship of Mr. Gates. After high school, John continued his education and graduated from the Gradwhol School of Laboratory Technology, St. Louis College of Mortuary Science, and Webster University. He also served as a St. Louis Community College Practicum instructor teaching embalming to St. Louis Mortuary Science students. John continued trade embalming with Gates Funeral Home, as well as other funeral homes in the metropolitan area.

During which time he met a beautiful young student at St. Mary’s Nursing School, Nettie B. Hendree. After her graduation they were joined in Holy Matrimony and began their lives together. Shortly thereafter, WWII began and John was drafted into the United States Army. Upon returning from the war the two decided to pursue their dream, and "build" the first African-American funeral home in the city of St. Louis from the ground up. Until this time African-American funeral homes were purchased from previous white owners. In I952, after many prayers, hard work, much resistance and rejection by 17 lending institutions, John, Nettie and Licensed Isaac Moore accomplished their goal and Cunningham & Moore Funeral Home was established. John and Nettie Cunningham were both licensed embalmers and funeral directors.

Their unique gift in the area of restorative art quickly made them industry leaders whose counsel was often sought after by other funeral homes when assistance was needed with challenging cases. After accomplishing their dream of building their own funeral home God blessed their union with four children, John Jr., Elvin, Inez and Susie. John and Nettie were well known for their active civic and political activism and received numerous honors and awards for their continuous community and philanthropic service. They both were involved in organizations that promoted the advancement and equality (or education) of others such as Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and all local, state and national funeral directors and embalmers trade organizations, to name a few. Because of their firm belief in higher education and entrepreneurship, they encouraged African-American youth to pursue higher education and frequently awarded students with scholarships for mortuary science as well as other academic areas. After many years of dedicated service to their clients and the St. Louis community, Isaac, John Sr., Nettie, John Jr., and Elvin transitioned to their eternal home, however, they will always remain in our hearts.

In 2005 the baton was passed to John and Nettie’s youngest daughter, Susie M. Cunningham, who is continuing the legacy established by her parents. With a renewed dedication of serving the community in mind, the business name was changed to SM Cunningham Funeral Home. The name was changed but the commitment remains the same. Susie is a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and a graduate of Webster University and the St. Louis Community College at Forest Park where she also served as a past Program Director and instructor. She also served as a member of the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. Susie is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the mother of two sons, John Justin Cunningham and Phillip Joshua Cunningham Shaw.

We are proud to say that SM Cunningham Funeral Home is a third generation family owned funeral service establishment. We have been committed to providing the best professional service with personal care to the families and communities in the Greater St. Louis area for over 60 years and we are committed to continuing to provide this level of service for generations to come. Because at SM Cunningham Funeral Home we believe in ... "Caring Beyond a Lifetime".