November 11, 1923 – May 4, 2020
Ingersoll "Sandy" Cunningham - Dana Farber Volunteer, Lover of Life, 96 Passed away on Monday, May 4 at his home. He was 96. He was active and involved in his many interests, most notably his family, friends and volunteer work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Sandy had more energy, enthusiasm, passion, curiosity, love and sense of purpose than most. He was a lover of people, and that love and admiration was returned to him tenfold. The son of the late Dr. John H. and Theresa (Van Den Heuvel Ingersoll) Cunningham, Sandy was born November 11, 1923, the youngest of three brothers who explored the woods and fields around Brookline, MA and the waters of Buzzards Bay. His father, a noted Boston surgeon, took Sandy on rounds, instilling in his son a deep sense of purpose and responsibility. Sandy attended The Park School, Milton Academy, Harvard University and Babson College. He was a naval stateside lieutenant during World War II, finishing Harvard in 1946. On August 13, 1946, he married the late Sheila Ellen Driscoll Cunningham, "the finest person I have ever known." They had five children, raising them on values of family, education and community. Summers at "Pooh Corner" in Wareham were filled with sailing, fishing, tennis, swimming, clamming, Winnie-the-Pooh, honey and all manner of fun. The extended community was treated to his signature sense of humor and spur-of-the-moment adventures, as well as some fierce sunfish and bullseye racing. An accomplished sailor, Sandy captained "The 7 C's" to several Bullseye National championships in the late 60s. Over their 56 years of marriage, family and friends looked to Sheila and Sandy's life together as a remarkable example. After Sheila's death in 2003, he wed Joanna Ray Inches, to whom he was married for 16 years. They enjoyed years of companionship, BSO concerts, plays, museums, and outings. Sandy was an investment officer for Bank Boston for over 40 years, where his relationships through generations drove business decisions on behalf of clients. He used his financial acumen to serve the Shaw Fund for Mariner's Children, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Family Service Association of Greater Boston. His mother, a horticulturalist, loved Chesterwood, the studio of Daniel Chester French, where he served on the Chesterwood Council. Since retiring at age 75, Sandy listed "Volunteer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute" as his occupation and was a beloved member of the Dana-Farber family. A lifelong learner who loved travel and reading, he always had a story to tell and a listening ear. In his words: "I have been privileged to listen to stories of patients' lives from far-away lands and the length and breadth of America. Volunteering at Dana-Farber is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life." Early on, Sandy's exuberance led him to spontaneously offer his home to a patient in a clinical trial. He explained this to Sheila over dinner, and for years their home welcomed patients, Fellows and researchers. As an initial contributor and board member, Sandy was instrumental in the founding of Hope Lodge in Boston, where a suite is named in his honor. Sandy is survived by his wife, Joanna, his five children and their spouses, Mac Cunningham of Aspen, CO, Fred and Joanne Cunningham of Sherborn, Kit Driscoll Cunningham of Wellesley, Becca Cunningham Weiss and Adam Weiss of Williston, VT, and Jen Cunningham Butler and Dan Butler of Arlington. He delighted in his grandchildren: Jessica & Todd Eves, Sarah Cunningham, Kristen Beaudouin, Olivia and Ryan Oppel, Kyle & Tate Beaudouin, Amara, Caelin and Anthea Weiss, and Mac, Maile and Kainoa Cunningham, writing many letters to all. He adored his great-grandchildren, Harper and June Eves, and Avery Oppel. Sandy's family will hold a celebration of his life when the multitudes who love him can celebrate together. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Friends of Dana-Farber, 450 Brookline Ave., SW120, Boston, MA 02215. Photo courtesy of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In this time of separation, his family is thankful for the messages and stories they are receiving. Sandy himself would be "tickled pink." Gillooly Funeral Home Norwood (781) 762-0174 gilloolyfuneralhome.com
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
May 12, 2020
We met Sandy Cunningham on Memorial Day, 2002 where he was volunteering at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. After my Cleveland, Ohio oncologist told my wife, Kathleen, and me there are no more treatments left to help my multiple myeloma, which was out of control. “Go to a hospice” he said. We were devastated, but not going to give up.
We quickly traveled to Dana Farber, checked into a hotel, and entered a clinical trial for an experimental drug. I was very sick; 104 fever; unable to eat; and my kidneys were shutting down.
Sandy was passing out lunches and encouraging me to eat. I could not, but we struck up a conversation about Sandy’s American flag tie, top hat, and his WWII service in the Pacific. As soon as he learned our story, he said, “You and Kathleen can live in our house in Wellesley, since we are moving to the Cape for the summer.” That was Sandy, offering his home to a couple he had just met.
The experimental drug saved my life; the drug was approved; we lived in the Cunningham house that summer; our friendship grew. Sadly, Sandy’s wife, Sheila, passed away later that year. She was the Friends of Dana Farber voluntary leader who Sandy loved very much.
Kathleen and I continued seeing Sandy when we were at Dana for check ups. We met Sandy’s long-time friend, Joanne, over dinner at his favorite Chinese restaurant. They married, and we met with them in Brookline, on the Cape and on Nantucket. Watching Sandy at restaurants and at a daffodil festival demonstrated his infectious sense of humor and genuine interest in others. He thoroughly enjoyed meeting people who enjoyed his humor.
We mostly remember Sandy for his passion to help others. We miss him.
Jim Bond, Shaker Hts. Ohio
May 11, 2020
Joan, A shock. Sandy was so young in mind and memories. I'll miss him at Friday BSO concerts. My heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry.