David M. Cunningham, a veteran Baltimore City Hall hand who was chief fiscal officer for the Department of General Services for more than two decades and an avid sports fan, died Jan. 1 at the University of Maryland Medical Center of complications from surgery. The Keswick resident was 71.
David Melchior Cunningham, one of five children, was the son of Joseph Robert Cunningham, a construction superintendent, and Erma Knepper Cunningham, a homemaker.
He was born in Baltimore and spent his early years on Oliver Street before moving with his family to a Woodbourne Avenue rowhouse in Northwood.
After his parents divorced, his mother married Walter Kirk Cunningham — an Aberdeen Proving Ground engineer who tested tanks and other ordnance — and was fondly known as “Uncle Dad” because he had been Mr. Cunningham’s uncle and then stepfather to him and his siblings.
A 1968 graduate of Baltimore City College’s “A” course, he began working in 1973 at Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s Sparrows Point plant in the finance department.
Mr. Cunningham earned his bachelor’s degree in 1981 from what was then known as University of Maryland University College. He worked at Bethlehem Steel during the day and attended college in the evening.
After leaving Sparrows Point in 1984, he worked in finance for Citigroup/Citicorp until 1989 when he began his more than two-decade career at City Hall in the Department of Public Works as chief fiscal officer in its Bureau of Water and Waste Water.
Mr. Cunningham was later appointed chief fiscal officer of the Baltimore City Department of General Services a position he held until retiring in 2014.
Marcia M. Collins, chief of Baltimore’s Office of Legislative Affairs, got to know Mr. Cunningham during his days at the Bureau of Water and Waste Water.
“That would have been in the late 1980s when David became CFO in Water and Waste Water,” Ms. Collins recalled.
“The budgets were complicated and it was all very technical. It was about operations and the capital budget, and David was just fantastic,” she said. “He was always a pleasure to work with because he was detail-oriented and always prepared.”
Ms. Collins added: “I liked Dave a lot and he had a great sense of humor. He was just a very friendly guy and you were always very relaxed when you were around him. He was just an all-around nice family guy who had two very intelligent children and a lovely wife.”
Mr. Cunningham also maintained an interest in local Democratic politics and had worked in the campaigns of his brother Wilbur E. “Bill” Cunningham, who represented the 3rd District in the City Council from 1986 to 1996 and also was chairman of the city planning commission.
“David did everything. Campaigns are really family affairs and with the help of best friends,” his brother said.
“He was in charge of placing signs, went door-to-door with me pushing doorbells, and was my treasurer, which was very important and complicated. You had to know where the money came from and David was brilliant at that,” his brother said.
“He loved the City of Baltimore and was very proud of his work supporting the city,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.
An avid sports fan, Mr. Cunningham was a former Orioles season ticket holder and enjoyed following the athletic fortunes of City College football and the University of Maryland men’s basketball team.
He enjoyed singing and was a choir member at Immanuel Lutheran Church and City College. His musical tastes tended toward Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and James Taylor, family members said.
Mr. Cunningham, who was an engaging conversationalist, also enjoyed reading nonfiction and history. He liked following current events, national politics, and poring over newspapers.
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“He created and cultivated lasting friendships, many since elementary school,” according to the family biography. “Everyone knew David as a friendly, reliable, and giving soul.”
As a resident of what’s called “Alonsoville,” near his Keswick neighborhood home, Mr. Cunningham enjoyed meeting a local group of friends on late Monday afternoons at Alonso’s, the West Cold Spring Lane tavern, where he enjoyed discussing current events while sipping a Guinness or two.
“David brightened many lives with his warmth and easy smile,” said Joe Clarke, a retired developer, who along with his wife, Mary Pat Clarke, former City Council president and councilwoman, attend the Monday afternoon gatherings, and are longtime friends.
Mr. Cunningham also relished the role of the doting grandfather. He taught his two Florida grandsons how to maneuver a lacrosse stick, a la Maryland.
“David was my best friend and probably my best friend across the board,” his brother said. “He raised a wonderful family, had a successful career, and was my brother.”
A funeral service for Mr. Cunningham will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Evans Funeral Chapel at Harford Road and Putty Hill Avenue in Parkville.
In addition to his brother, Mr. Cunningham is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Janet Walczak, who worked in customer service for Morgan Stanley; a son, Dr. Paul D. Cunningham of Canton; a daughter, Dr. Kristen M. Jones of Coconut Creek, Florida; two grandsons; and several nieces and nephews.