Patricia Sloan Cunningham

August 31, 1926March 8, 2018
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Patricia Ann Sloan Cunningham, 91, of Houston, Texas passed away peacefully on March 8, 2018 in her home surrounded by family and with her beloved husband of 61 years, William J. Cunningham, holding her hand.

Patricia was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Herbert Sloan and Lauretta Tobin Sloan. Patricia lived in New York City attending Hunter College High School where her study of Latin and French sparked her lifelong love of languages and different cultures. She continued her education at Smith College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in French and Spanish/Latin American Studies. She extended her studies in France at the Université de Lille earning her Master’s degree in French. Upon graduating she taught English at the Berlitz School and was a translator for a Spanish Import-Export firm in Madrid, Spain. Patricia returned to the United States to begin her career in government service. During her professional career she served with the Voice of America, with the U.S. Information Service as Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer in Lima, Peru, as Cultural Affairs Officer in Florence, Italy, and in Washington D.C. for the Department of State.

In December of 1955 while working in Washington, DC in the Exhibits Division helping to select art to be displayed in US Embassies abroad, she was invited to attend a Christmas party by a friend. At the party a young gentleman who also worked for the Department of State sat down next to her and struck up a very interesting conversation. Bill Cunningham asked her on a date that evening and by February of 1956 they were engaged. Bill and Patricia were married on July 14, 1956. Since the Department of State did not allow two Foreign Service Officers in the same family, Patricia resigned and they became a “two for one” couple. Moving several times for Mr. Cunningham’s career, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham lived in Taiwan, Chevy Chase, Maryland, Japan, Bethesda, Maryland and New York City. As a certified Secondary School Language Teacher, Mrs. Cunningham taught in public and private schools abroad and in Maryland and New York City.

Following Mr. Cunningham’s retirement from the Foreign Service in 1982, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham relocated with their two youngest children to Houston. Mrs. Cunningham was appointed Executive Director of l’Alliance Francaise de Houston. Later, she became a Fund Raiser for the March of Dimes and UNICEF. For fourteen years, Mrs. Cunningham was an adult literacy teacher and trainer of volunteers for the Houston READ Commission. Mrs. Cunningham was a volunteer with many local organizations, including the League of Women Voters, St. Anne's Catholic Church and United Nations Association/Houston Chapter. In October 2017, the United Nations Association/Houston Chapter awarded Mrs. Cunningham the Lifetime Achievement Award for her esteemed contributions to the international community in Houston.

Mrs. Cunningham is preceded in death by her parents, and sister Margaret Tobin Sloan, of Jackson, Mississippi. She is survived by her loving husband William Joseph Cunningham, formerly of Lancaster, California; her brother, Herbert Sloan Jr., of Lynchburg, Virginia; her five children, Anne (Ralph) Hedian of Cheverly, Maryland, Theresa (Padraig) Doolan of Riva, Maryland, Marie-Claire (Earl Rix) Cunningham of New York, NY, Peggy “Pegeen” Bush of Corinth, Texas, William (June) Cunningham, Jr. of Millersville, Maryland, three nieces, two nephews, eleven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.

The vigil will be held on Thursday, March 15 from 4-6pm at Earthman’s Bellaire at 4525 Bissonnet St., Bellaire, TX and a funeral Mass on Friday, March 16 at 10am at St. Anne Catholic Church at 2140 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX. A reception will follow the funeral Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church. Interment will take place at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. Mrs. Cunningham will be remembered for her ability to see the best in others; inspiring them to fulfill their potential, as well as her vibrancy for life, and love of the arts. Mrs. Cunningham was recognized around town as Madame au chapeau. In honor of this distinctive style, ladies are encouraged to wear hats to the funeral. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Patricia Cunningham’s name to the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, St. Anne’s Guild, or the Houston Symphony.


  • Herbert W. Sloan, Father
  • Lauretta Tobin Sloan, Mother
  • Margaret Tobin Sloan, Sister
  • William Joseph Cunningham, Husband
  • Herbert Sloan, Jr, Brother
  • Anne Hedian and husband Ralph, Daughter
  • Theresa Doolan and husband Padraig, Daughter
  • Marie-Claire Cunningham and husband Earl Rix, Daughter
  • Peggy “Pegeen” Bush, Daughter
  • William Cunningham, Jr. and wife June, Son
  • three nieces, two nephews, eleven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren



  • Visitation Thursday, March 15, 2018
  • Funeral Mass Friday, March 16, 2018


  • Rite of Committal

Patricia Sloan Cunningham

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Mary Pat Reilly

March 16, 2018

Patsy, who was Patsy Cunningham? She was defined by five characteristics, which so perfectly spell out her name.
P is for passion
Patsy had her devoted love and passion for her dear husband, Bill and their 5 every accomplished children and spouses. She embraced her life with Bill as a wife of a foreign service officer. She demonstrated her loving passion for her 11 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren as well. She illuminated God’s passion for everyone she met through her Catholic faith.
A is for aptitude
Patsy was a very accomplished woman who devoted herself to being a lifelong learner. She spoke 5 languages, had her Bachelors degree, and Masters in French. You could say she was a woman of the world and ahead of her time.
T is for timely, which she was not
She lived on her own time, also known as Patsy’s time. She wasn’t usually on time to events, but you knew when she entered the room. Need I say more?
S is for social
Patsy was the life of the party! She was engaging and enjoyed being her extroverted self! She knew how to work the room! You always knew when she was present, by her dynamic Irish personality and, of course, her lovely hats.
Y is for young at heart
Patsy cherished every moment and every person. She made sure each person was engaged and cared about when she was hosting a party or event. This attribute made her ageless and beloved by all.

Fay Tiller

March 16, 2018

Patricia was a gracious, intelligent person, resilient and devoted to Bill. While teaching Management Information Systems as an adjunct in the mid-1990s at the University of St. Thomas, I had the pleasure of teaching both Bill and Patricia "Introduction to Computers" in my Saturday morning class. Every time I saw Patricia after that, she would graciously remark how much she had learned. I enjoyed talking with her at the events for the Center for International Studies throughout the years.

The last time I talked with Patricia was late last year at the University for the event honoring her husband, Bill. She gave a wonderful speech for Bill, who was unable to attend. She lived a wonderful and useful life. I will miss her. My sympathies are with Bill and the rest of the family. Sincerely, Fay Tiller Alexander

Eric Botts

March 15, 2018

Bill, I recently heard the news about Patsy's passing and I wanted to reach out to you and offer my deepest sympathies and support. I am so sorry for your loss. I want you to know that I consider you and Patsy very dear colleagues in the ongoing mission to bring enlightenment, awareness, and understanding to the students at St. Thomas and the broader Houston community about the vital importance of foreign affairs. The two of you are examples to be emulated in what can only be described as a zest for life, boundless optimism, openness to others, and a sense of giving to the larger community. You and Patsy are in my heart and I know the St. Thomas and foreign affairs community mourn her passing as much as we celebrate her life.

Joaquin Casamayor

March 15, 2018

Elvira, our family and I are saddened to learn the news of the passing of Patricia Cunningham, dear wife of Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Center for International Studies, William Cunningham. Mrs. Cunningham was a lady of unwavering love, grace, wisdom, enthusiasm and commitment. Through her patronage of the arts and the university, as well as her work with the international community, we witnessed the life of someone committed to making this world a more beautiful, faithful, joyful and compassionate place.

Martha and Badia Rahman

March 15, 2018

Dear Bill and Family,

We remember Patricia with her grace and warmth when we first came to Houston and she welcomed us to St. Thomas on a visit to meet with you in the International Affairs Department. It was always our pleasure to visit with the two of you.

Naila Qureshi

March 14, 2018

Dear Bill,

You and Patricia are in my thoughts and prayers. I will always remember Patricia as the tall, elegant lady with her fabulous hats. May her soul rest in eternal peace. Naila

Sister Margit Nagy, CDP

March 14, 2018

One favorite memory of Patricia is of having her in my Japan Foundation “Modern Japan” course at the University of St. Thomas in the 1980s. Though Patricia didn’t wear a hat to class, her contagious enthusiasm for learning about Japan in greater depth and her incisive questions made her presence
memorable. How grateful I am that our Provident God brought Patricia, Bill and me together and sustained our friendship across time and distance. May dear Patricia now be enjoying the fullness of eternal life with our God of Life and Love.

Sister Margit Nagy, CDP
Our Lady of the Lake University
San Antonio, TX

Doris O'Connor

March 14, 2018

Kim and I send our deepest sympathy to Bill Cunningham and his family on the passing of Patricia Cunningham. We appreciate our friendship with the Cunninghams over the last 40 years. We will remember Patricia in our prayers. Doris and Kim O’Connor

Laura McWilliams

March 13, 2018

I met Patricia with Bill shortly after he came to St Thomas, and then to my surprise and delight she “showed up” at the l’Alliance Francaise- and became the Executive Director. I was involved there, and I knew what a challenge it was for a director of a non-profit. She went on to help, volunteer, and donate thousands of hours to her international interests, while taking care of family and prodessional responsibilities. She was the “secret weapon” of the Cunningham family, and I admired her for it. She will be sorely missed by all who were in her wide wide corcle.

Rita Marsales

March 13, 2018

Dear Bill:

Patricia was always a perfect lady in every sense. She was kind and considerate, generous, witty, and fun.
She was devoted to the arts and the church.
We'll never forget her warm smile and lovely hats.
You shared a wonderful life together. She loved you and her wonderful family dearly.