William K. Cunningham III, a retired communications expert who enjoyed horseback riding, died of complications from dementia Oct. 5 at Manor Care Ruxton. He was 79.
The son of William K. Cunningham Jr., a McLean Contracting Co. executive, and Miriam Cunningham, a homemaker, William King Cunningham III was born in Baltimore and raised in Hamilton. He then moved with his family to a small farm in the Worthington Valley.
He was a 1955 graduate of Towson High School, then served in an artillery unit of the Maryland National Guard.
He went to work as a lineman for the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., then became a telephone installer. He was later promoted to installing PBX systems.
For about 15 years, Mr. Cunningham oversaw communications at the old Memorial Stadium during Baltimore Colts and Orioles games.
He retired in the 1990s from Lucent Technologies and continued working for about another 15 years at what is now the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center as a private contractor maintaining the hospital's communication system.
His interest in horseback riding began in his youth when he rode the Mid-Atlantic steeplechase circuit and competed in many races including the Maryland Grand National and the Virginia Cup.
Family members said in one race, he was aboard a horse owned by the Mellon banking family of Pittsburgh, and in the middle of a jump the horse suffered a heart attack. Mr. Cunningham had been thrown from his saddle and the horse crashed on top of him. He escaped serious injury.
"The incident gained him notoriety among his peers," said a son, Patrick Cunningham of Parkton.
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The former Towson resident moved to the community of Boring, where he spent many hours riding and jumping obstacles aboard a thoroughbred named Harry. He also participated in fox hunting with the Green Spring Valley Hounds.
He was a founding member of the Church of the Resurrection, an Anglican church congregation at 11525 Greenspring Ave., Lutherville, where a memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 22.
In addition to his son, Mr. Cunningham is survived by his wife of 56 years, the former Barbara Jones; another son, Christopher Cunningham of Barton, in Allegany County; his stepmother, Mary Elaine Cunningham of Timonium; and five grandchildren.