Helen F. Cunningham
Helen Fay Johnson Cunningham, formerly of Edwardsville, Ind., and Elizabeth, Ind., passed away peacefully on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Harrison Springs Health Campus in Corydon, Ind., at the age of 98.
Helen led a long life dedicated to making others’ lives better. She was a passionate advocate for senior citizen volunteering, enjoying the outdoors and helping the underprivileged.
She was born April 28, 1923, in Gary, Ind., the first of two children of Willard S. Johnson and Lula H. Day Johnson, who had grown up in Harrison County. After starting grade school in Rising Sun, Ind., her family moved to Elizabeth when she was 11 after her father lost his job during the Great Depression. After graduating as valedictorian from Elizabeth High School in May 1940, Helen went to Manchester College and earned a degree in chemistry in 1947. She worked for Colgate-Palmolive for 38 years as a chemist and microbiologist, retiring in 1983. While at Colgate, she served on the board of directors of the Colgate Credit Union and Colgate Management Club. Helen also volunteered at St. Edward’s Hospital in New Albany, Ind., during World War II by working part time in the lab for 2-1/2 years.
In 1951, Helen married her high school classmate, Chester L. Cunningham of Evans Landing, Ind. Helen was an active member of the Church of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth since 1964. She was a Sunday school teacher, youth group leader, Bible School teacher, elder and organizer of the monthly senior citizen luncheons at the church from 1988 to 2008. She served on the Ohio Valley Presbytery Committee on Ministry for six years, as well as the Committee on Preparation for Ministry for three years.
Helen also was active in the Harrison County Homemakers and the American Legion Post 379 Auxiliary. After retiring, she volunteered at the parks department, the schools and the hospital. She served on the board of the Harrison County Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Harrison County Mental Health Organization advisory board and served as a director of the South Central Recreation Club and secretary-treasurer of the Posey Township Farm Bureau. In 1995, she was named Older Woman of the Year for South Central Indiana by the South Central Indiana Council for the Aging and Aged. Helen and her family were active and dedicated to the creation of South Harrison Park in Elizabeth since fundraising for the land began in 1970. Helping others and being active in the community was always a priority for her.
Helen loved to read and was a member of the Corydon Women’s Literary Club. She was a lifelong learner who even in her last years was reading a book every week and working at least one crossword puzzle a day until she had a stroke on Oct. 27.
To honor her on her 80th birthday, her children began the Helen J. Cunningham Community Service Scholarship in 2003 at the Harrison County Community Foundation. In addition to the scholarship fund, the public swimming pool at South Harrison Park was named in her honor by the Harrison County Parks board in 2004 in recognition of her 20 years of volunteer work for the parks department.
She is survived by her two children, Tom Cunningham (Theresia) of New Salisbury, Ind., and Carol Ann Cunningham (Don Falkenstein) of Burke, Va.; five grandchildren, Trent Cunningham (Shanda) of Floyds Knobs, Ind., Troy Cunningham (Sarah) of Floyds Knobs, Travis Cunningham (Maria) of Prospect, Ky., Lauren Falkenstein of Oakton, Va., and Taryn Falkenstein of Sherman Oaks, Calif.; five adorable great-grandchildren; and several beloved nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and her brother, Willard Buerk Johnson of Jeffersonville, Ind.
Arrangements are being handled by Gehlbach & Royse Funeral Home of Corydon. A celebration of Helen’s life will be held at the Church of the Covenant in Elizabeth on Wednesday, Dec. 29, at 11 a.m., with visitation with the family beforehand starting at 9:30 a.m. A private burial will be held at Evans Landing Cemetery in New Boston, Ind.
In lieu of flowers and in honor of Helen’s legacy of service, she requested that memorial contributions be sent to the Harrison County Community Foundation for the Helen J. Cunningham Community Service Scholarship, P.O. Box 279, Corydon, IN 47112-0279 or at https://hccfindiana.org/esdonations/details/59/Helen-J-Cunningham-Community-Service-Scholarship-Fund; to Pyoca Camp and Retreat Center (a Presbyterian Youth Camp), 886 E. County Road 100 S, Brownstown, IN 47220 or at
https://crm.bloomerang.co/HostedDonation?ApiKey=pub_a0925e67-663e-11eb-ba71-0686663776c3&WidgetId=32768; or to Heifer International, 1 World Ave., Little Rock, AR 72202 or at https://www.heifer.org/give/donate-monthly.html
Her family would like to thank the staff at Harrison Springs Health Campus and her special friends there, Sherry Liebert, Dana Lutz and Jennifer Shaffer.