Rudolph "Rudy" Joe Cunningham passed away on January 28, 2023 at the age of 89 in Llano, Texas with his family at his side. He was preceded in death by his father, Orville Cunningham; mother, Pauline Cobb Cunningham; wife of 59 years, Nitajean Cunningham; daughter, Carolyn Ann Cunningham; and sister, Wanda Fielder. He is survived by his son and wife, Ron and Carol Cunningham of Llano, Texas, his deeply loved granddaughter Kathryn Ann Cunningham and fiancé, Dinyar Kadkhodaian of Reston, Virginia and extended family throughout Texas.
Rudy was born in Dumont, Texas on January 31, 1933, to Orville and Pauline Cunningham. He was raised in rural north-west Texas, attended and graduated from Spur High School in in 1951.
After high school and at the age of 18, Rudy joined the United States Air Force and proudly served for four years. During that time, he was stationed in the United States, England, and in Korea during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1955 and returned to the Texas.
In 1958, Rudy met the love of his life, Nitajean Ashby in Odessa, Texas. They were soon married and while residing in Odessa, were blessed with two children, Carolyn Ann Cunningham, and Ron Cunningham. In 1974, the family relocated to Kingsland, Texas and it was while living in Llano County that both Rudy and Nita both realized their true blessings in life were raising their children in the Texas Hill Country, fellowship with their family and friends and serving others.
Rudy and Nita were devoted parents attending Carolyn and Ron's school sporting and extracurricular events. It was during this time that they met and formed a lifelong bond with their friends, Jerry and Alberta Allred, Rayford and Patty Aycock, Louis and Barbara Kolb, and Carroll Versyp. Referring to themselves as "The Gang" they attended their children's events, attended local events, traveled, and hunted together. For over 50 years, the gang has celebrated and mourned together with each event bringing them closer together.
Rudy spent most of his life serving others in his church, as a volunteer fireman, a Justice of the Peace and as a member of the Federal Government's Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.
In 1975, Rudy joined the Kingsland Volunteer Fire Department and served with his good friends, Woody McDougal and Danny Stone. He began as most rural Texas County volunteer firefighters do; riding on the back of brush trucks fighting wildland fires. He responded bravely to emergencies in Llano and surrounding counties. He retired as Fire Chief in 1998.
In 1984, Rudy was elected as Llano County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3. He served in this capacity until retiring in 2006. He had a reputation for being fair and reliable, and was well respected in the community. He was very well known for his dedication to his profession, responding to calls by both citizens and law enforcement, in both official and unofficial capacities regardless of what day or time he was called upon for help.
In 2000, Rudy joined David and Jamie Hawthorne as a member of the Federal Government's Disaster Morticians Operational Response Team. This trio spent 16 years responding on sometimes extremely short notice, to natural or man-made disasters involving mass fatalities. They worked with compassion to quickly identify and reunite victims with their loved ones in a dignified, respectful manner. In this capacity, Rudy trained and responded to mass casualty events such as the 9-1-1 terrorist attacks in New York, the north Texas Space Shuttle explosion, and New Orleans Hurricane Katrina.
Rudy was born with a Servant's heart and tirelessly served in various capacities in church and his community. He never met a stranger and enjoyed helping others. Throughout his life he took time to enjoy fellowship and comradery with friends while working outdoors, hunting, or gathering with his friends and families at annual events. He had a green thumb and had a special affinity for dogs, especially those who needed extra care or rehabilitation.
Rudy's family is sincerely thankful for the personnel who worked at Llano Mid Coast Hospital along with Celeste Care and Solaris Hospice of Llano for the truly compassionate and genuine care that was provided to Rudy in his final year.
Honorary Pallbearers are Jerry Allred, Danny Stone, Dewey Fain, David Hawthorne, Roy Holdridge and Charles Ashby.