Ralph S. Cunningham Sr.

October 16, 1940November 7, 2020

Ralph S. Cunningham, Sr., 80, died on Saturday, the 7th of November 2020, at his home in Houston, Texas. Ralph, an Ohio native, graduated from high school in Birmingham, Ala., and attended Auburn University where he studied chemical engineering. He later earned his masters and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from Ohio State University.

No words or stories about him will ever feel adequate. Ralph was extraordinary--but he would never have told you that. He had a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart, and was deeply devoted to Deb, his beloved wife of 43 years. Ralph was an avid hunter, and shared his love of the outdoors and traveling the world with Deb, their children, and their grandchildren. He is remembered for his deep faith, his generosity and kindness, and his devilish sense of humor. He was humble, caring more about his family and his time with them than any accolades and accomplishments that were bestowed upon him during his rich life. Driven, intelligent, kind, gentle, and fiercely loyal… That was Ralph. Those who knew him, loved him. And many will deeply, deeply miss him.

Ralph had a long and distinguished career in the energy industry, beginning at Humble Oil and Refining, now Exxon, as a technical engineer, and later holding various executive and C-level positions at Tenneco Oil, Clark Oil and Refining, Texaco Chemical, Huntsman Corporation, Citgo Petroleum and Enterprise Products. He served on the boards of various energy companies, including Agrium, EnCana, Enterprise Products, TEPPCO Partners, Cenovus, and TETRA Technologies. Ralph gave his time and energy to numerous organizations, including many years serving in leadership roles at the Houston Safari Club, Safari Club International, Shikar Safari Club, the Weatherby Foundation, and Second Baptist Church. Ralph was preceded in death by his brother, Ted Cunningham.

He is survived by his best friend and wife Deb; their children, Sandy and Linda Cunningham, Steve Cunningham, Susan Cunningham, and Jennifer and Greg Desautels; their grandchildren, Krissy and Josh Rachner, Brooke Cunningham, Ford Cunningham, Kaci Cunningham, Ryan Cunningham, Marissa Cunningham, Elliot Desautels, and Charlie Desautels; great granddaughter, Ember Rachner; sister Janice (Charles) Phillips; and countless friends and family around the world, all who he loved unconditionally.

The family gathered for a private memorial service this past Friday at Second Baptist Church.

In lieu of customary remembrances, please contribute to an organization or cause close to your heart. That would be Ralph’s wish.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Ralph S. Cunningham Sr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kathy King

November 17, 2020

Deb and family,
Butch and I are so sorry for your loss. We always enjoyed seeing Ralph. He was always smiling and always had a kind word.
You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Kathy King

Mary Madden

November 16, 2020

Ralph was truly humble. I was just a young worker at Texaco Chemical Company. Whenever Ralph saw me down the hallway, he would always wave to me and say hello. As a person early in my career, I always remembered his kindness and his ability to remember people at all levels of his organization. It was a great lesson to learn early in my career that I have carried forward. My best to the family. We have all lost a truly great man!

Lynn Turley Bell

November 15, 2020

I was saddened to read about Dr. Cunningham's passing. I worked in the refining and human resources departments at Tenneco Oil in the 1980's. When I had to get his signature for a merit increase, I was "shaking in my boots." I learned after the first time, how kind and gentle he was. I too had the elevator experience where he called me by my first name as I got off. What an amazing memory! My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. May God Bless you and give you comfort.

Peter and Lucia Swanepoel

November 14, 2020

Dear Deb and all Cunningham family
We are saddened to hear of Ralph’s passing. He was a gentleman and a great and generous hunter, we will always be profoundly touched by his and your friendship and we fondly remember all our great hunting times together.
He has now joined Dan up on the Eternal hunting grounds,
Our thoughts and prayers are with you
Peter, Lucia and all the Swanepoel clan.

Mike Vance

November 14, 2020

I was a (very) junior employee at Tenneco's Chalmette Refinery. Never had met Dr C. I came out of the elevator and he warmly said "hello Mike". I was in total shock. The President of our company knew my name! That small gesture is testimony to his care of the employees. RIP sir.

Sandra Hosmer

November 13, 2020

Dear Deb,
With all my heart I send my sympathy and empathy. Joe suffered for 3 years and one of my comforts is that now he is at peace. My other comfort is knowing that Joe and I will share eternity together.

I watched the service and it was beautiful. The Pastor did a wonderful job and I hope that you get consolation from his words. A match made in Heaven, like yours and Ralph's, will go on in Paradise forever.
May God comfort you.
Sandy Hosmer

Gary Smith

November 13, 2020

Dear Cunningham Family,
I met Ralph in 2009 when he was kind enough to hire me at Enterprise. It was a pleasure and privilege to work with him. His calm demeanor was reasuring. He always took time to listen, offer inciteful advice and encouragement. He understood that treating people well was key to individual and company success. Ralph was a true gentleman and class individual. I was lucky he gave me the opportunity he did and blessed to have known him.
With Fond Memories,
Gary Smith

Mitzy and Tony McCorvey

November 13, 2020

Deb and family,
Tony and I are deeply saddened to hear about Ralph's passing. He was such a beacon of light to everyone who knew him. His eyes were always twinkling and we will cherish all of the memories we have with him, especially the weekends at the YO.
Love you all,
Mitzy and Tony

Todd Anderson

November 13, 2020

I am grateful and blessed that my life was enriched by knowing Ralph. I always looked up to Ralph and have always respected the man he was. Ralph was a mans man, he was a stellar role model for anyone who ever met him. I will always and forever remember Ralph Cunningham and miss his presence.
Much love and respect to the entire Cunningham Family.

Alberto Valdes

November 13, 2020

Dear Deb & family,

I was fortunate to have had you and Ralph hunt at my Ranch in Mexico. I remember him enjoying every moment. He was a great gentleman and a dear friend. I learned valuable life lessons from him during that week. My heart is heavy with his passing . You have my deepest condolences and are in my prayers.


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