(Dec. 23, 2009)
Johnnie Francis “John” Cunning, 59, Powell, died Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009, at his home after a courageous two and a half year battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was born June 10, 1950, in Gothenburg, Neb., to Francis M. and Joyce (Rothrock) Cunning. He graduated from Gothenburg High School in 1968, then attended two years at North Platte Junior College on a music scholarship.
John joined the U.S. Navy in January 1971 and was assigned to the aviation patrol squadron, serving three tours of duty overseas. On assignment in Southeast Asia, he earned the Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal with two stars. From August 1974 to August 1978, he was attached to Navy recruiting offices in Omaha, Neb., where he earned the Gold Wreath Award for excellence in recruiting. He was discharged in August 1978 as a Petty Officer 1st Class (E-6).
John began his postal career in January 1979 in North Platte, Neb., as a clerk/carrier. He was appointed postmaster in Valentine, Neb., on Dec. 11, 1982. He served in that position until appointment as postmaster of the Powell Post Office on April 11, 1987. He retired June 1, 2008, from the U.S. Postal Service after 21 years of service in Powell.
John was married July 2, 1971, and to this union, daughters Brandy and Heather were born. After a later divorce, John was awarded custody and raised his daughters as a single parent.
He married Elizabeth Lyon on June 5, 1993, and gained a third daughter, Jessica. They enjoyed traveling, hunting and fishing together.
John will be remembered as an avid hunter and fisherman, as well as a devoted Nebraska Cornhusker fan. He had loved these pursuits throughout his life and continued to enjoy them through his illness.
John had a beautiful voice and sang many solos in church and also shared his musical talent in the church choir. He was active in many organizations during his lifetime, including the Masonic Lodge, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rotary International, Lions Club, American Legion, VFW, and was a charter member of the Valentine, Neb. chapter of Vietnam Veterans.
Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth; daughters Brandy Walstrom of Columbus, Mont., and Jessica Lyon of the family home; grandsons Nathan Walstrom, Colton DeVries and Treven DeVries of Columbus, Mont., and Dillon Cunning-Foster and Jayden Cunning of Montana; mother, Joyce M. Cunning of Gothenburg, Neb.; brother, Dr. Michael J. Cunning and his wife Brenda of North Platte, Neb.; and nieces Amber Smith (Dustin) and Chelsea Hamilton (Josh) of Nebraska. He was preceded in death by his father, Francis M. Cunning, and sister, Linda Cunning.
A celebration of John's life will be observed at the Union Presbyterian Church in Powell at 11 a.m. today (Tuesday), Dec. 29. Interment will be at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, Neb., Saturday, Jan. 2 at 11 a.m. Thompson Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
The family would appreciate memorials to the Hematology-Oncology Centers of the Northern Rockies at 1025 9th St., Cody, WY 82414, or to a charity of choice.