Obituary: Donald M. Cunningham / Electrical engineer developed patents, volunteered in Churchill

Nov. 20, 1926 - Jan. 28, 2013

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Donald Cunningham, a longtime electrical engineer, Churchill volunteer and devoted long-distance runner, died Jan. 28 from natural causes in Phoenix. He was 86.

Mr. Cunningham worked five decades for Edwin L. Wiegand and Co. as an electrical engineer and after its 1967 merger for Emerson Electric, where he rose to vice president for the Pittsburgh division. He developed several patents over the years, and regarded them in a typical good-natured style.

Seeing baseboard heaters he had helped develop in daughter Jill's college dormitory room, he told her, "'Keep your stuff away from that. It'll burn you down,'" she recalled.

He knew what he was talking about: Mr. Cunningham was also a volunteer for the Churchill Volunteer Fire Co. for 15 years, at one point serving as fire chief. He also served on the borough's planning commission.

Mr. Cunningham was the middle of three children born to Dorothy and Joseph Cunningham, an electrical engineer, and raised in Wilkinsburg. He graduated from Wilkinsburg High School at age 17 and went straight into service in World War II, training in the Army Air Forces as a B-29 flight engineer.

After his discharge in 1944 he got his mechanical engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh and went to work for Wiegand.

He began running in middle age, often at the Woodland Hills High School track, eventually running multiple marathons including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which attracted him due to the John Philip Sousa marches played throughout.

An avid bird-watcher, Mr. Cunningham had a sunny personality that got him through the valleys in his life, from the death of a 20-year-old daughter in a car accident and a stroke that followed the death of his wife, Ann, in 1987. After another stroke in 2009 he moved to Phoenix to live with his daughter, Jill.

"There wasn't a person he could tell you a bad thing about. If you would rant about somebody doing something wrong to us, he would bring out something good they did," she said.

Mr. Cunningham is survived by son Matt of Glen Ridge, N.J., and daughter Jill Stewart of Phoenix.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Maurice L. Knee Funeral Home, 7663 Saltsburg Road, Plum.


Tim McNulty: or 412-263-1581.


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