The Patricia Kelley Cunningham Fund
This Fund was established to honor the life of Patricia. It will support the overall mission of ALS United Mid-Atlantic.
Patricia Kelley Cunningham of Wilmington, DE, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, August 1, 2023. She was beloved wife, devoted Catholic, gifted scholar, passionate teacher, and faithful friend.
Patricia was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, to Arthur R. Kelley and Ileen Dunphy. She was a 1953 graduate of Brockton High School and went on to attend Brown University in Providence, RI, graduating in 1957. She spent her junior year abroad in Fribourg, Switzerland with the program from the Dominican University in Illinois. She would go on to spend further time studying abroad throughout her life including at the College of Saint Catherin’s Institut de Langue Françoise, in Rennes, France.
After her undergraduate studies in English at Brown, Patricia received two master’s degrees in French: one from Marquette University and one from Middlebury College. A lifelong learner, Patricia was devoted to her studies. She spent most of her vacations studying in France, Spain, and Italy, and took further graduate classes at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware.
It was whilst they were both at Marquette University that “Patsy Kelley” or “PK” met her husband, George Cunningham. That first meeting, on a toboggan date in 1961, began a 61-year run of laughs, love and devotion for PK and George.
For 40 of those 61 years, Patricia taught French Spanish, Italian and English to her beloved students. Locally, she taught World Languages at Wilmington Friends School, The Tatnall School, St. Edmond’s Academy, and Archmere Academy. At Archmere, she established an innovative World Languages Department, second to none. Her teaching methods were far ahead of their time in their integration of language, history, and culture. Her student/faculty class trips to Europe set the standard for years to come.
From 1981 through 1988 she was the chair of Archmere’s Foreign Language Department. After her tenure was complete, she shared her teaching expertise as Supervising and Mentor teacher, establishing a program which guided new and developing teachers. She supported a generation of teachers to find their unique voice in the classroom. Her sustained legacy of high standards and preparation continues to impact the learning of students and teachers today.
After retiring, she continued to share her teaching skills with anyone who asked for her help. During that time, her expertise was sought in the redesign of the Spanish curriculum at Saint Edmond’s Academy. For several years she taught Spanish there to fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students, helping interview and mentor new teachers for the seventh and eighth grade middle school program. Through her international contacts, Patricia helped put in place a Spanish immersion summer program at the Escuela Idiomas de Nerja, in Spain. The program proved popular with students and parents alike.
Patricia was as assiduous in her devotional life as she was in her language study. Often her daily prayers and devotions were in foreign languages, and she was a regular and gifted public reader of the Bible at both Archmere and at the chapel at the Country House. Her preparation for reading was always meticulous and she took time to breathe life into the words she read.
Nobody emerged from their interactions with Patricia’s kindness without being changed for the better: whether student, colleague, family member or friend. When Pat was on your side, good things happened.
PK and George’s Wilmington home was often the gathering spot for new and seasoned teachers, lifelong friends, and new acquaintances. The “PK and Georgio” parties were legendary for their impeccable cuisine, late-night camaraderie, ever-present humor, and good will. We thank God for her life and her faith – heaven’s gain is our loss. She will be so missed.
Eulogy – George Cunningham
All of you know how positive Pat has been throughout her life. Well, Pat carried that indomitable spirit throughout her battle with ALS.
I remember one afternoon when Kathy Seibert was visiting for lunch; Pat turned to Kathy and said:
“You know, Kathy, I won’t allow myself to become depressed because I want to enjoy the little time I have left”.
“Wow. What courage.”
Pat’s acceptance of her affliction and the positive attitude she displayed was because of her spiritual strength and faith in God. Throughout her whole life, she continued to say her daily prayers.
Pat had this large Italian tome, I Santi, of the saints of the day. I used to tease her saying:
“You wouldn’t be so faithful with your daily readings if that were in English.”
She would smile but say nothing.
It was difficult for Pat to understand why this was happening to her. She never complained but was bewildered at times. She was sometimes angry, and when she wept, I cried with her.
Everything Pat did, she did well, so it was no surprise to me that she became the model patient. But I believe it was her daily prayers that sustained her. She had special devotion to Saint Theresa du Lisieux, Saint Theresa of Avila, St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of Italy, and of course, St. Francis of Assisi. A great portion of the time traveling in Europe was spent visiting cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and shrines, including the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi and the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.
Patricia Kelley Cunningham was a strong woman, and I can express that sentiment in the three languages that she loved:
1. Patricia etait une femme forte et exceptionelle.
2. Patricia era una mujer fuerte e insuperable
3. Patrizia era una donna meravigliosa.
From mid-March until July 22nd, when Pat entered the hospital, she was able to live a tolerable life. She continued reading her morning prayers in Italian, enjoyed reading novels and our nightly routine of reviewing PBS and BBC world news continued. So, when you consider her whole life span, she really lived a long, fruitful, and wonderful life.
Pat was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is shortened to ALS – which is so easy to say – it almost rolls off the tip of your tongue. ALS is easy to say, but very difficult to watch.
I truly believe that Pat’s death was an act of Divine Intervention. If the illness were to continue, the result would have been unimaginable. Pat would have suffered greatly. Unable as she was to combat the effects of pneumonia, God was merciful and granted Pat a peaceful death.
Each day I told Pat how much I loved her. I told her how adorable she was – and the operative word here is adorable.
For Patricia Kelley Cunningham was truly adorable.
From: The Archmerean – Fall 2023
A Polyglot – Pas Comme les Autres (Like No Other)
Patricia Kelley Cunningham arrived at Archmere in 1974 as a French teacher. She attended Brockton High School in Massachusetts and went to Brown University, graduating in 1957. She spent her junior year abroad in Fribourg, Switzerland, and would continue her international studies throughout her life. She received two Masters degrees in French, one from Marquette University and one from Middleburg College. A life-long learner, Patricia also took graduate classes at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware. During her career at Archmere, she would become chair of the then Foreign Language Department (1981-1988), now called the World Languages and Cultures Department. She would also teach English, Italian, and Spanish.
Her love of languages and culture extended beyond the classroom. In 1974, she, along with Father Stephen Rossey, O. Praem., art teacher, launched an international student travel program providing students with immersion into the languages they were studying. The trips included aspects of art and history, as well as language and culture. Patricia wanted students to appreciate abroad experiences, particularly with the study of languages, so that they might consider semesters or years abroad in their higher education career plans. Patricia had a strong empathic belief in broadening students’ experiences to begin to learn about the human condition in other parts of the world.
She spent most of her vacations studying in France, Spain, and Italy. Over the years, she and her husband, George ’55 developed an international family of friends.
After her tenure as department chair Patricia shared her teaching experience as Supervising and Mentor teacher at Archmere, developing a program to guide new and developing teachers, supporting them in finding their unique voice in the classroom. High standards and expectations from students, a strong work ethic about teacher preparation and planning, a passion for lifelong learning and the subject matter being taught, and sincere compassion for students and their individual needs defined Patricia as a teacher.
After her retirement from Archmere, Patricia continued to share her teaching passion and experience by developing a new Spanish program for Saint Edmond’s Academy at the request of then Headmaster, Brother Michael Smith, C.S. C. and Association Headmaster (and former student), Michael Marinelli ’76. She spent several years revamping the middle school program and introduced the elementary school curriculum when the school expanded to the lower grades. Tireless and ready to set self-imposed professional goals, Patricia was excited to share that she had now taught from grades kindergarten to twelfth grade, something that she had not considered ever having the opportunity to do. At the same time, she developed an international travel and immersion program for the middle school students that led to life-long friendships, with the directors of Idiomas Escuela de Nerja in Nerja, Spain.
While Patricia was passionate about teaching and learning, she placed all of her work in the context of her deep Catholic faith. She said her daily prayers (in various languages), had special devotions to saints, and regularly practiced her faith. She enjoyed being a lector at Mass, reading the Scriptures with such an interpretive gift that the words became alive and multi-dimensional as if lifting from the page.
Patricia was a tremendous role model for her students and colleagues, and a wonderfully loyal and loving friend to many alumni and teachers. In many ways, we became her extended family, and she and her husband, Dr. George Cunningham ’55, would always be ready to welcome us into their home.
Dear George (Jorge),
I recall the evening so long when you and Madame hosted Alex and I for dinner in your apartment. We came to offer Pat a job teaching French at Archmere. I believe she was teaching at Friends at the time. She was vivacious and on the cutting edge of modern theories and techniques for foreign language teaching. I thank God that she accepted. Pat was special. She called me Dannyboo and Vincent Freiberg, Muffin!
Now we pray for her eternal rest, but I can’t imagine Madame resting anywhere, even in heaven. I am sure that she is happy that we are praying for her, but she is even busier praying for us.
We are told not to light the lamp and then hide it under a basket, but to let the light shine.
Pat was more than the light; SHE WAS LIGHT and how she shined!
“You did well, good, and faithful servant come and share your Master’s happiness’ so says the Lord to one of the best.
George, I hold you in my heart and carry you in my prayers. It’s not easy for you, I know. I will say Mass on Sunday for “Madame’ Patricia Cunningham. She will always live in our hearts.
Words fail me at the loss of my inspirational, entertaining, and faithful, Parisian traveling companion. So many wonderful times together and memories shared. So many excellent meals and glasses of wine shared at your Quintynnes home. So many encounters in her office in the Manor and on the campus at Archmere. Thank God that I have all those memories to keep our PKC alive and ever-present in my mind and heart. I could not be more grateful for all she did for me and for everyone she touched with her concern and love. She was, and always will be, an inspiration to “do the best” and to “keep educating oneself” for not only self, but also for others. To these ends, she never stopped; nor will she.
I will offer a series of Masses for the repose of her noble soul in the coming days and enter her name in my yearly calendar as a reminder to me of all that she did and means to me.
Thank you too, George, for all you did and meant to her.
My sincere love and condolences. You are in my prayers.
Words cannot express how sad I was to hear about Madame. As you know, she was a truly special person, and an even more amazing teacher, mentor, and friend. I will always value the role she had in my decision to become an instructor. My special personal memories will include our trip to France when I was a junior in high school.
Although we are unable to attend the Mass in person, Larry and I will watch it live on Monday.
Please know that you will continue to be remembered in our thoughts and prayers.
We heard the terribly sad news of Pat’s passing from Pamela. We’re so very sorry for your devastating loss.
Pat was a joyful, amazing, engaging, kind and gentle soul who always made us feel appreciated and loved. And our shared anniversary was such a lovely coincidence – always a warm email from Pat and you. We know the special affection you had for Paul and we were so lucky we knew both of you through him.
You and Pat shared the long and wonderful life together, but that means you have an equally deep and substantial sorrow to bear. One which no words can assuage. But, you know deep in your soul how much Pat loved you and that Pat knew how much you loved her.
All our best,
Bob and Jen Hull
My sincere condolences.
Pat was a force! One of mom’s few, long-time best friends. So full of love of life. She spoke of you fondly all of the time.
I feel so lucky to have spent time with Pat and Mom, together in New York City. They had so much fun as they said “tooling around the city”.
I’m sure Pat is finding a new place for herself that is full of many languages and peoples!
Thank you for letting me know. I spoke to Janet this morning and let her know and I will see her tomorrow. I will try to arrange it so she can live stream the memorial.
Please reach out if there’s anything you need, any help you need.