July 16 – A memorable day

July 16 has good and bad memories for me, and probably for all of us.

The good is that my mother-in-law, Irene Sutton Cunningham Laughlin, was born on this date. The bad is that she died in 1990, just six short years after I married her son. She lived in California and we lived in the Midwest, and then in Louisiana at the time of her death. Two trips to Pasadena weren’t nearly enough for me to get to know the woman who left North Judson, IndianaIrene pic when she was still a teenager, to make her mark in Hollywood.

Her claim to fame was a few “extra” roles in Shirley Temple movies, and an ill-advised marriage to a vaudeville performer named Tink. She would never really talk about those years, much to our regret, because now she’s gone and there’s no one around to fill in the gaps.

She moved back to the Chicago area, met and married Charles Gause Cunningham. Their only child, Ken, was born when Irene was 28 and Charles was 49. I never did get to meet Ken’s dad because he died in 1972 at the age of 78.

They were, from all accounts, an interesting couple. She, a vivacious, free spirit, always ready to laugh, party, and socialize, but she took human rights, seriously, and didn’t have a prejudicial bone in her body. You didn’t, however, want to cross her without a good reason. The story of a turkey platter, that came within inches of crashing down on her husband’s head one Thanksgiving, comes to mind. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.

He was a tall, dignified engineer who enjoyed drinking a martini in his smoking jacket after a full day at Pratt and Whitney in Chicago. He also loved golf. One of his regular foursome was Charlie Weber of Weber Grill fame. If you have a Weber kettle grill, you can thank Charles G. Cunningham because he’s the one who drew up the blue print.

He was also the inventor of the traverse rod and the first electric toothbrush. Unfortunately, for him (and his heirs!) he wasn’t a businessman. Westinghouse and others simply blocked his patents until he got tired of fighting them and let the patents run out. The rest is history.

Several other events happened on July 16.

1st test detonation of an atomic bomb, Trinity Site, Alamogordo, New Mexico as part of the US Manhattan Project in 1945.

Our friend, Donna Sanger, was born on this day (I won’t mention the year, Donna).

Probably theApollo_11_launch most memorable event (no offense, Donna or Irene), Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral carrying men to the moon in 1969.

And, an event that brought sadness to many. John Kennedy,cf171d1a0f9862b2e4168c13e5bf3f9b Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren, were all killed when their small plane crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in 1999.

So, here’s to Irene, Donna, all those souls killed and maimed in the atomic bomb blasts, the Apollo astronauts, and John-John. And to July 16.

5 thoughts on “July 16 – A memorable day

  1. Kevin Albert Cunningham

    Mary Cunningham,
    My name is Kevin Cunningham grandson of Charles Gause Cunningham, son of William Joseph Cunningham, I have trying to trace my family tree back, were you married to Charles Cunningham, I understand you have updated his side of the family any information would be greatly appreciated, I’m trying to put a tree together for my children and grand children, if my research has done any good Charles father would be Samuel Jackson Cunningham,thank you,. Kevin Cunningham

    1. Kevin Cunningham

      This may come as a surprise, I think you are my aunt by marriage, my grandfather is Charles Gause Cunningham i believe you married his son Dan who is my fathers step brother, my father is William Joseph Cunningham Sr. Sincerely, Kevin Albert Cunningham.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Your comment is so timely since I’m doing genealogy research. My husband, Ken Cunningham, is the son of Charles Gause Cunningham, your grandfather. His mother is Irene, Charles’s second wife.

    One discrepancy, though. Charles’s father was Andrew Jackson Cunningham. He was married to Rachel Williams.

    Please email me at marycunningham24@comcast.net

    Very excited to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.