Jean Miles Cunningham, a Former Hudson Valley Resident, Dies at 53
YORK, ME – Jean Miles Cunningham, 82, died on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at Sentry Hill in York, ME. A Maine resident since 2015, she had previously resided in Hudson Valley for 53 years.
Daughter of the late Herbert H. and Olive (Lewis) Miles, she was born in Jersey City, NJ on July 20, 1934. She spent summers on Green Pond in Morris County New Jersey – canoeing, swimming and later waitressing in the local hotel. She described this time as idyllic, surrounded by her parents and sister and many aunts and uncles. Jean graduated from Wells College in 1956. After meeting him at Jim’s Place, a fine and venerable establishment in Ithaca, New York in 1955, she married Edward V.K. Cunningham, Jr. on October 5, 1957 in Ridgewood, NJ.
Immediately after their Bermuda honeymoon, as Van was a commissioned officer in the US Air Force (Strategic Air Command), Jean and Van moved to Salina, Kansas. In 1959, they moved back up to Dryden, NY while Van attended law school at Cornell University. In support of this effort, Jean taught English at the Vergil Central School.
n 1963, after a time in Staten Island, they, along with mom’s dog Lady, relocated to Dutchess County, where Jean became an active member of the community. Jean was known among her friends as Saint Jean – and she was. She volunteered and supported local organizations, many of which she served in leadership positions. She was Past President of the Orange and Dutchess Garden Club, Past President of the Junior League, Past President of the Glebe House, Board Member & Treasurer of the Children’s Home, Board Member of the Vassar Brothers Medical Center Foundation, a Candy Striper at Vassar Brothers, a member of the Dutchess County Historical Society and Board Member & Librarian at St. George’s School.
She was a Bridge Master; Jean and her long-time Bridge partner, David Hinkley, were known for their skill and card sharp talents. Jean loved her animals and was a great mother to them – cats and kittens, puppies and dogs, a flock of turkeys and many deer were loved over the years. Jean was an enthusiastic gardener. She loved decorating the house for Christmas and the holidays. She was an ace at the New York Times crossword puzzle. Jean and her mother Olive would set up shop each Sunday and finish it – IN PEN. Jean and Van were longtime patrons of the Metropolitan Opera.
Jean was a world traveler. She loved going to New York City. The times spent traveling to Europe with Van, especially the Loire Valley and the Chateaus of Luxembourg were times of great happiness. Sitting on the beaches of Majorica, the Bahamas, the Leeward and Windward Islands as well as the British and American Virgin Islands, gave her not only tans to be envied but also allowed for lots of laughter with friends and family.
She loved to shop and her wardrobe was impeccable. Making people happy was her raison d’etre. She was known for throwing fabulous legendary parties. She put on dinners for 12 and parties for 200 and made it look easy. She loved a good joke, a glass of wine (or two) and good food.
Jean will be remembered for the twinkle in her eye, her signature “love that red” lipstick by Revlon, and her fabulous shoes. She loved fiercely and without apology. She cherished family events and was often the first to arrive and last to leave. Her grandchildren and her many nieces & nephews were her joy. She was one in a million and will be dearly missed.
She is survived by her husband, Edward Van Cunningham, Jr., at home in York, ME; her daughter, Jennie Cunningham McManus & her husband Kevin of Exeter, NH; her son, Edward V.K. Cunningham, III of York, ME; her grandchildren, Olivia Graham McManus of Chicago, IL and McCallin Claire McManus of Exeter, NH; many nieces & nephews including Sukie Shaw Azar & her husband Doug of Woodstock, VT and Jean Shaw of Sacramento, CA; as well as many other loving relatives & dear friends.
In addition to her parents, she was also predeceased by her sister, Pam Miles Shaw.
A memorial service will be held on May 26th at 11:30am at the Freedom Plains Presbyterian Church, 1168 Route 55, LaGrangeville. Burial will be private at Fishkill Rural Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of the McHoul Funeral Home of Fishkill, Inc.
In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie or Vassar Brothers Hospital.
For online tributes, please visit Jean’s Book of Memories at www.mchoulfuneralhome.com.