Mary Anne Pearce Cunningham
90, of Indianapolis, IN, passed away peacefully on October 30. In her final months, as throughout her life, she was surrounded by family and friends.
Born July 10, 1923, Mary Anne was the youngest of (Edwin) Starling and Pauline Wilhelm Pearce's three daughters. She attended IPS 66 where, in the First Grade, she met James Andrew "Jim" Cunningham, the man who would become her husband. She attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis and Wheaton College in Norton, MA, majoring in psychology.
After graduation from college in 1945 she went to live at her parents' vacation home in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In January 1946, Jim Cunningham, having completed his WWII service in the Pacific Theater with the Army Air Corps, came to visit. He stayed at the Pearce home for eight days, and at the end of his stay he asked her to marry him. Mary Anne famously replied, "I feel like I have been hit over the head with a meat ax." She asked for time to think it over. They were married Sept. 7, 1946, at Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle.
Mary Anne and Jim had three children, all of whom survive her: Andrew Pearce (Suzanne) Cunningham, Anne Pearce (Steven) Robinson, and Fred Pearce (Kellie Jo) Cunningham. She is also survived by her five grandchildren: Elizabeth Fortier Cunningham, James Pearce (Lauren) Cunningham, James Elliot Robinson, Abigail Pearce Robinson, and Genna Leigh Cunningham. She is furthermore survived by seven nieces and three nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, as well as her sisters, Martha Louise Hare and Pauline Elizabeth "Betty" Gregory. Jim Cunningham died in 1974, and Mary Anne remained a widow for 39 years. Prior to Jim's death she was a homemaker; afterward, at the age of 51, she entered the workforce and was employed at a variety of jobs including 17 years working in the front office of a family practice physician. She retired from that position in 2011, shortly before her 88th birthday.
She was a longtime member of Woodstock Country Club, as well as the Junior League of Indianapolis, and the Dramatic Club. She was an honorary member of the Day Nursery Society, and in 2013 she became a member of The Elder William Brewster Society, signifying her heritage as a descendant of the Mayflower's religious leader in America.
Mary Anne loved the outdoors. She was fortunate to spend many summers at her parents' farm in Brownsburg, IN, as well as at Camp Merrie-Woode in NC, and traveling the American West with Parkhill Travel Camp. These experiences engendered her lifelong love of nature; she was always happy to be beside the water or outside on a sunny day. She was also a gifted athlete. As a teenager she was a canoeing counselor and a champion equestrian. As an adult she loved golf and also cross-country skiing. And throughout her life Mary Anne loved the companionship of animals, especially horses and dogs. In fact, she often remarked that she simply did not trust people who do not like dogs.
Mary Anne had a large circle of lifelong friends including (but hardly limited to) the Calwell, Eisner, Van Tassel, Claycombe, Kothe, Von Sprecklesen, Mahoney, Leslie, Hardwick, Stackhouse, and Strack families, as well friendships that dated back to her girlhood with women like Frannie Bloch Julian, Barbara Wilde Dean, Mary Ann Morrison, Janie Shook, and other members of the Shortridge Click Club.
But of all her many loving bonds, those she cherished most were with her family. Mary Anne was a loving mother who accepted the loss of her young husband with grace, and finished raising their three children with joy and love. She was a respectful mother-in-law who welcomed her son- and daughters-in-law and supported the independence of three new families that grew from her own. And she was an adoring grandmother who was easy to talk to, interested in listening, and ready with the occasional gentle wisecrack whenever a little "grandmothering" was needed.
Mary Anne Pearce Cunningham was a beautiful woman whose greatest physical asset was her brilliant smile, a gift surpassed only by the brightness and liveliness of her forever-young spirit. She will be missed dearly by her family and by all who knew her.
The family is grateful to the many friends of all ages who reached out to Mary Anne in her last months. A special debt of gratitude is owed to Robin Cafouras, the young woman who cared for Mary Anne through her final illness with kindness, compassion, and humor.
Visitation will be at Flanner and Buchanan - Broad Ripple, on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. Services will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Nov. 4 at the Gothic Chapel at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Indianapolis Humane Society, the American Cancer Society, or the animal welfare or nature conservancy organization of your choice.
You are invited to go to the Guest Book page to pass along your personal message or tell a story.