Ila Mae Cunningham


Ila Mae Cunningham, 87, our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, and friend peacefully passed away May 28, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ila Mae Williams was born on May 5, 1928 to Berton Elliott and Rachel Mae Peabody Williams in Malad City, Idaho and was the oldest of twelve children. The family faced difficult financial times during the great depression. Her father was working away from home as a truck driver and her mother worked at several jobs around town, so the burden of keeping house and raising the children fell largely upon Ila. She attended and graduated from Malad High School in 1946 during the war years which demanded many rations and cutbacks in activities. She was involved with many school clubs and plays and was the Pep Club Sweetheart attendant and Homecoming Queen. During her school years, in addition to working at a grocery store and theater, she gained business class credit by collecting water assessment fees at the bank. After graduation, she was recommended by her teacher for a job at J. N. Ireland Bank. This valuable fiscal experience and frugal make do work ethic would set the stage for the rest of her life. She met her husband, Dewey Thomas Cunningham, a Downey basketball star, while they were in high school. They married on July 5, 1948 and they were later sealed in the Logan LDS Temple on April 1, 1971. They raised four children Cathy, Sandy, Marci, and Doug. Ila Mae accompanied Dewey through his basketball career and college years as he attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah and Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. She commented that his college degree belonged to both of them because she helped him study, typed his papers, and ensured he received good grades. During Dewey’s college, she worked for the president of Snow College, and for the Bank of Ephraim and ISU Bookstore. After Dewey and Ila returned to Downey, Ila worked at the Downey State Bank and later at Dr. Leo G. Burkett’s office at the Marsh Valley Hospital. She loved working with Dr. Burkett so much that she measured every doctor to his unachievable standard. When Dewey received a teaching position at Marsh Valley High School, Ila again helped him complete his classes to receive his teaching certificate. In 1972, Ila applied for the clerk-treasurer position for Marsh Valley School District and expanded and grew the role with new technology. She diligently served there for 19 years until retirement. Ila Mae was very active in the Downey and Marsh Valley social and LDS Church communities, holding many church callings and being involved in the Madrigal Choir and Downey Study Club. She and Dewey had many friends and were highly respected members of the community. She enjoyed decorating her home and had a particular love of collecting swan figurines. Always one to keep busy, Ila served as the Downey chairwoman for the Bannock County Centennial Committee in the early 1990s, initiating many projects and improvements in the city. This role inspired her to run for mayor to continue seeing her projects to fruition. Ila Mae was handily elected as the first female mayor of Downey and served two terms from 1991-1999. She upgraded the water system, reopened the medical clinic, revitalized the downtown, created a business incubator, and reenergized the town’s economy. She was a respected participant in regional and statewide government organizations and had a tenacious ability to find and secure private, state, and federal grants for her projects. Her initiatives received national recognition and she was frequently featured in regional print and television news coverage as well as nationwide magazines such as Mature Outlook and American Profile. She was honored by the National Association of Towns and Townships and received Wal-Mart’s American Hometown Leadership Award in Washington, DC from Senator Dirk Kempthorne as well as Regence BlueShield’s Ageless Heroes Award in Boise. Ila Mae built her dream home and lived 15 years in Ivins, Utah escaping the harsh winters while maintaining her family ties and close relationships in Idaho. She will always be remembered for her service and the legacy she left. Ila and Dewey were blessed to have devoted and caring children and their spouses as well as grandchildren who took care of them in countless and varied ways during the trying years of dementia and poor health. Ila’s children give heart-felt thanks to all the family and friends who filled Ila’s life with happiness and compassion. The family would like to express gratitude to some remarkable people: Thank you to Vivian Zalus. Vivian is the kind of friend you wish you had known your entire life. Ila and Vivian shared conversations, walks, old movies, competition in Bingo and Yahtzee! and laughter. Thank you to Sally, Kathy, Jan, and the in-home staff of Intermountain Homecare Hospice in St. George. Part of Sally’s gift to family members is her ability to communicate her loving and practical philosophy of “a natural and peaceful end-of-life”. Thank you to every single staff member at CareSource in Salt Lake City for the many kindnesses you offered Ila while caring for her. You are an inspiration to live in the present moment with respect and honor. Ila Mae is survived by her children Cathy Cunningham (Doug Rollins), Sandra Cunningham, Marci Carlsen (Rod), Douglas Cunningham (Michelle); grandchildren Shawn Stringham (Melissa), Kristopher Zwetschke (Linda), Seth Carlsen (Betsy), Lindsy Lefler (Dave), Heidi Carlsen, and Catherine, Dalton, and Mitchell Cunningham; great grand-children Jonas, Samantha, Amelia, Megan, and Peter Stringham, Karter and Rylee Zwetschke, Owen, Amber, and Lewis Lefler, Claire and Max Carlsen; siblings and their spouses Hanna Lou Williams, Connie Harris, Colleen and Gene Richards, David and LaVee Williams, Linda Snyder, Pat and Jack Bracken; many nieces and nephews; numerous friends and colleagues. She is preceded in death by her husband Dewey, her parents Bert and Rachel Williams, Dewey’s parents Dewey A. and Olive Cunningham, siblings and their spouses Dee Jay Williams, James Harris, Bert Williams, Jerold Dean Williams, Grant Williams, Rosalie Williams, Roy Snyder, Diana and Ron Ferrin, and sister-in-law and husband Jean and Glade Owen. Funeral services will be held Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm at the Horsley Funeral Home, 132 W. 300 N., Malad City, Idaho. Friends may visit with the family on Saturday prior to the service from 11:30-12:45 p.m.. Graveside service will be at the Malad City Cemetery.

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