Elizabeth "Betty" Cunningham

December 30, 1928November 19, 2012
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Elizabeth Cunningham (nee Nevin), called Betty by family and friends and Mum by her children, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the shadow of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where her father worked. This Irish elf grew up in Shamrock Street, a quintessentially Irish address. One of six girls, Betty endured the loss of her mother at the age of eight and was raised by her sister Belle. She survived the bombings of the Second World War and was a child of the generation imprinted by rationing. She grew up playing in the Ormeau Park and singing in May Street church. Betty married the love of her life, Thomas Herbert (Bert) Cunningham, in 1955. Bert described Betty as the most vivacious woman he had ever met; it was an apt description. They immigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to begin their married life and had three children: Joan, John, and Tom. All were born in October, all three years apart. Betty would tell door to door census takers that her husband was a travelling salesman who came home once every three years in February. Betty was born to be a mother. Her love of small children was instinctive. She would coo, cuddle, sing, and nurture her babies, indeed all babies. This attention continued into their school years. Tired of making sandwiches for school lunches, she empathically concluded that her children were probably sick of eating them. She would make homemade sausage rolls, hamburgers, and milkshakes, which she would wrap and then deliver to the school by car, for our lunches. This did not win her children friends, but it made for happy tummies. Betty typed up little books of times tables to help her children with math, she made golf trophies for her sons out of pie plates, and knit Barbie clothing in the evening to surprise her daughter the next morning. Betty was a gifted singer, knitter, baker, cook, and gardener. Her soprano voice won singing competitions in Ireland; when Mum was happy she sang as she did housework. Her Aran and baby sweaters, knit with love and devotion, remain works of art. Betty’s love of baking closely followed by her love of butter was legendary. Her rose garden in the late 60’s and 70’s was so splendid that motorists would stop in their cars to look at her collection of hybrid tea roses, which she somehow got to flourish north of Montreal. The family moved to Kitchener in 1980 and settled in old Forest Hill. Her daughter Joan married David Somerville and John married Sherri Steeves. This produced three beautiful and talented grandchildren, Courtney, Elizabeth, and Jordon, who she fawned over as she had her own babies. Betty was devoted to her Bert and devastated at his death, in 1993, from which she carried on, but never recovered. She lived with her devoted, adult son Tom, who supported her in remaining in her own home. It isn’t possible to do justice to Betty’s unconscious comic timing, her tenacity, or generosity. She was loved by all who knew her and is missed by everyone she touched. This Irish elf is with her Bert once again and we know she is happy though we miss her so. Betty is predeceased by her sister Molly Carson, her brother-in-law Bobby Carson, her sister Nancy Murray, her brother-in-law Jimmy Murray, her sister Isabel Patience, her brother-in-law Jack Patience, her brother-in-law Ronnie Johnston, and her sister Winnie Walker. She is survived by her brother-in-law George Walker, her sister Jessie Johnston, and the nieces and nephews of her sisters.

Charitable Donations gratefully accepted to: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada The Alzheimer’s Society The Kidney Foundation of Canada and can be made by contacting the funeral home or online at


  • Private Family Memorial Service

Elizabeth "Betty" Cunningham

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December 7, 2012

Dearest Joan, David and Elizabeth we are so sorry to hear about your Mum's passing. Your description of your Mum is so spot on - a wee Irish elf with perfect comic timing. We were very priviledged to have known her because of our friendship and I do believe that Betty passed her comic and timing skills on to her daughter and grandaughter. May your memories of all those great times together kept within your heart and soles give you calm and joyful memories. Love Hugs and heartfelt thoughts Lew and Marilyn

George Walker

December 4, 2012

Dear Joan, John and Tom

The Walker family in Woking and elsewhere in the UK, send their expressions of sadness at the news about the Auntie Betty whom they loved so much. The last time she phoned me, we reminisced about The Nevin Girls - The Pride of Ravenhill Road. I reminded her that we have a photo of them facing us at the foot of the stairs, and that I saw her each morning sitting beside my Winnie, and smiling at me, and the other five surrounding a proud and happy father, Thomas Chapman Nevin. I felt so glad that Winnie and I actually made it to Kitchener. While we were there, Betty organised a trip to Stratford to see Eugene O'eill's Long Day's Journey into Night. I will never forget that evening, finished off with another fine Bertie discussion!!! You are all in our thoughts and we send our love and prayers.

Winnie's George

Jamie O'Halloran

November 27, 2012

Dear Joan, David and Elizabeth,

Please accept my deepest sympathies. The moving tribute painted the picture of a wonderful mother and grandmother, of whom exists a wealth of fond memories to cherish.

Take care.

Daniel Le Floch

November 26, 2012

Dear Joan,

I was deeply touched to read the beautiful tribute to your mother. What a loving and accomplished person. Please know that you, David, Elizabeth, and all your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Patricia Chambers

November 26, 2012

She sounds like she was a wonderful woman. A baker too, my kind of lady!!! It would have been an honour to have had a bake off. Everyone would have been winners with all the baked goodies. So too are you winners for having been a part of her life. She sounds like the kind of mom I would have loved to have too. My heart is heavy for all of you with her passing. Celebrate her life which lives on in each and every one of you. I believe even now she is giving you a wee bit of that Irish luck. Patricia Chambers, Ottawa, ON

Wayne Lonsdale

November 26, 2012

"Dear Joan & David, My most heartfelt sympathies to you and to the Cunningham family. I too, lost my mother recently (she was also from Belfast) and while your sorrow is great now, rest assured that your pain will ease over time.

November 26, 2012

Dear Joan, David, and family. Deepest sympathy with the loss of your beloved mother and mother-in-law. I know you will miss her always. Thinking of you at this difficult time. Kathryn Weston

November 25, 2012

I had the pleasure of meeting Betty when I worked for Zehrs, Betty would come in once a week and stop and get her cooked meats of me and chat,both of us being from Northern Ireland, both of us born in Belfast, we would talk about the old country and laugh about the new country, I had the joy of going to her home for lunch and the one time we got talking so much the apple pies she had baked burned in the oven, we laugh so hard, Betty had a great sense of humour, and I would love listening to her many stories, When I spent quite a few months in hospital, Betty would pop in with sweets for me, and reassure me that I would be getting out "any" day, I spent a year in hospital, and when I got out I laughed and told her"indeed you told me anyday" She was indeed one of a kind,and I was so so very sad to hear of her passing, I am thinking of you all regards Margaret McCready, Kitchener,

Wendy Shantz

November 24, 2012

Such a beautiful person! Will always have fond memories of our dinners together and Betty sharing her stories!
Dave, Wendy and Colin Shantz

Wanda Tangaki

November 24, 2012

Dear Joan, David, Elizabeth and family. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy. I will always remember Betty as a cast of charatures..her laugh was contagious, her witt sharp. She could verbally spar with the best of them. She had a wicked sence of humour..but her heart was sooo big.. always room for more she'd say. Her conversations with me always ended on a positive note..saying how she adored my girls. That twinkle in her you couldn't help but love her at first sight. She has blessed many, and will be sadly missed. Thoughts and prayers are with you and yours threw this difficult time.