Norma Cunningham, a long-time member of FFRF, is celebrating her 100th birthday on Oct. 28.
Norma and her husband, Joseph, are Life Members of FFRF, and both have served on the Executive Board almost from its formation.
She grew up in St. Louis, where she was the valedictorian of the large Cleveland High School class of 1935, and earned a full four-year scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis. Norma earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939, and the same year received the Jesse Bar Fellowship Award, with which she acquired a Master's degree in Latin in 1940. She also is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. In addition, she served as co-chair of the Arts & Sciences Century Leadership Club of Washington University.
After graduation, she taught in St. Louis area schools for four years before moving to Mascoutah, Ill., in 1944. She worked in the Mascoutah High School for 31 years, teaching Latin, German and English. At Mascoutah, Norma was chair of the school's Fine Arts department, also served on the Mascoutah Library board for many years and as a member of the Literary Society.
In December 1953, she married Joseph Cunningham, who was also a teacher at Mascoutah High School. They have two daughters — Kathryn, an attorney; and Linda, a medical doctor — and five grandchildren: Andrew, Sarah, Benjamin, Grace, and Alex. (Joe has just retired from FFRF's Board after serving for more than three decades.)
Norma and Joe spent many years traveling with their children, going to all 50 states plus Canada; also visiting Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan and China.
Norma used her fluency in German to translate the detailed diaries and letters of her great-grandfather, Herman Steines, and great-great uncle, Frederick Steines, who immigrated from Germany, records which they compiled from 1830-1835. These documents were printed into two large volumes and were donated to the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis City Library, and many relatives.
Her other interests include reading classical literature, listening to classical music, working crossword puzzles, and cooking. A few years ago, Norma entered the Southwestern Illinois Spelling Bee contest and won first place, often correcting the host's pronunciation of various words.
Norma spent many happy hours entertaining family and friends over large elaborate meals at her beautifully set dining room table. She also was a recipe tester for Betty Crocker, sending in her comments and suggestions on improving the originals.
She loves flowers, particularly roses, enjoys visiting the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and is skilled at flower arranging with blooms from her garden. Norma's favorite TV program is "Jeopardy!" She recently got all five of the week's Final Jeopardy questions correct.
Norma has resided at the Silver Creek Assisted Living home in Mascoutah for the past five years, where she will host family and friends at her 100th birthday celebration.