Thelma Louise Cunningham
December 23, 1922 -
May 25, 2013
Thelma was the only daughter born to William E. and Alpharetta Wilson on Dec. 23, 1922 at Walters and departed this life in Lawton, OK on May 25, 2013. She grew up in Walters in a loving family complete with her seven brothers. After graduating from Walters High School in 1940, she graduated from secretarial college and went to work at Fort Sill. She took a vacation trip to Monterrey, California and decided to transfer her civil service job. While in California, she met John W. Cunningham who was an officer serving in the United States Air Force. They were married Dec. 3, 1947 and celebrated over 65 years of marriage.
Thelma traveled all over the world with her military husband and raised two children in the process. Thelma developed an interest in art while living in Tokyo, Japan. She took her first watercolor lessons while there. Her teacher spoke no English, but Thelma concentrated on learning her techniques and learned rapidly. While living in Virginia, Kansas and Hawaii, her desire to explore art prevailed. In her next stop in Omaha, Nebraska, Thelma began her first works in oils and other media at the Joslyn Art Museum.
When her husband retired, Thelma returned to her hometown of Walters. One of her favorite activities became joining a group of artist friends for "paint outs." She selected an outdoor scene and put on canvas her own vision of its colors. Thelma continued to study art in Dallas, Texas and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was a believer in lifelong learning and attended numerous workshops and developed an extensive art library.
Thelma Cunningham was a former president of the Cotton County Art Council and served in that capacity for over 17 years. She helped to transform the former Rock Island Depot into a cultural center used by the entire community. She received an appreciation award from the Association of South Central Oklahoma Council of Governments for her involvement in helping place the depot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Thelma was an award winning artist skilled in watercolor, oil, acrylics and pastels as exhibited by her earning the prestigious Community Service Award from Governor of Oklahoma Frank Keating in 2001. She worked many years to encourage young artists to refine their talents through special workshops and art shows such as the Gallery on the Green Art Show.
Thelma was active in the United Methodist Women at Walters Methodist Church serving as a former president of the group. She also sang in her church choir for many years and had a great love for her church.
Thelma is survived by her husband, John Cunningham, Lawton, Ok; a daughter and son-in law, Susan and Mark Smith, Lawton; a son and daughter-in-law, John and Cecillia Cunningham, Bath, Ontario; a granddaughter, Amy Smith and fiancÚ, Brandon Patrick, OKC., OK; grandsons and granddaughters-in-law; Brent and Jaymi Smith, York, PA., Brian and Gayla Cunningham, Forney, TX, John Thomas and Shonee Cunningham, San Antonio, TX; one great granddaughter and three great grandsons. She is survived by her brother and sister in law, Eugene and Barbara Wilson, Dallas, TX; sisters-in-law: Virginia Wilson, Bethany, OK, Jeanne Wilson, Missoula, MT and Joy Wilson Wichita, KS. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews and friends.
Thelma was preceded in death by her parents and her brothers: Wesley Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Wilson, Raymond Wilson, James Wilson and Teddy Wilson. She will be remembered by all who knew her as a kind and caring woman. She will be greatly missed. Memorial contributions can be made in her honor to the Cotton County Art Council or the Walters Methodist Church Choir.