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Ella Maurine Hill Cunningham

August 12, 1934 July 20, 2020
Ella Maurine Hill Cunningham
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Obituary for Ella Maurine Hill Cunningham

Ella Maurine Hill Cunningham
1934 - 2020

Ella Maurine Hill Cunningham – beloved to all who knew her – died on July 20 in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Born August 12, 1934 in the tiny Panhandle town of Lockney, Texas, she was the youngest child of Lester and Pearl Hill.

Rev. Hill was a Methodist minister and Army chaplain whose assignments took his family to places such as Earth and Friona, Texas; Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Sharon, Pennsylvania. Secure in a close and fun family of four siblings, Ella told many stories relaying these multiple moves as the fabric of a happy childhood that fostered her enduring faith.

In 1953, while majoring in education at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, Ella met Hubert Tejan Cunningham as they waited to take their sophomore “class favorites” photo. For Tejan it was love at first sight, but capturing Ella’s heart would take nearly seven years. More than six decades later, at her bedside, Tejan spoke of his early ease with the beautiful young woman who always brought out the best in him.

In 1959 – after Tejan returned from serving overseas in the Army and Ella had earned her master’s degree at West Texas State University – they finally married. Tejan’s career path took the family to Amarillo; Colorado Springs; Weatherford (Oklahoma), Dallas, Paris and Tyler (Texas), culminating in his successful and lasting work as an independent consulting pharmacist. Along the way, they raised their two children, Dana and Scott, whom Ella described as the greatest blessings ever to befall a pair of parents.

She taught at different times throughout her life. One of her greatest teaching experiences was the two years she spent acclimating the children of three Cambodian refugee families who had moved to Paris, Texas. For many years, Ella also was active in Child Evangelism Fellowship, teaching children the gospel she loved.

And Ella had many loves – her family, her children, being a mother and a grandmother. A generous hostess and extraordinary cook, hers was the unmatched lemon pie, the best chocolate cake, and the perfect dilly bread. She was perennially curious and loved to learn; she studied French, attended the symphony, played piano, sang in choirs, and painted; she was a lover of beauty in all forms, and she loved to be inspired. Ella was a true patriot, campaigning vigorously for her candidates. She sewed masterfully; she scored in ping pong and badminton games during spirited family tournaments. Mountain trails, walking in the woods, sledding, snowshoeing, parasailing – Ella loved every aspect of the out of doors and was always up for an adventure, bringing her contagious joy and leaving treasured memories.

In the spirit of her authenticity, Ella’s daughter, Dana, says, “You seldom had to guess what she was thinking,” and tells the shirt-tag story. “Dad was in the doghouse and Mom was scolding him. She wound up with, “And I’m tired of picking up your shirt tags everywhere!’” Tejan’s response was to write love notes on the shirt tags and hide them under pillows, in drawers . . . and the tradition continued with their children.

To know Ella was to be met by a deep and abiding kindness, a rare generosity of spirit that radiated from the light in her eyes, and an unbelievably bright smile that warmed the entire room. For all her wonderful qualities and understated elegance, what everyone loved about Ella was just how genuine she was. She will forever be remembered for her caring, vibrant countenance, and for the love she so abundantly gave.

Ella Cunningham is preceded in death by her parents, her sister Wynona Pearline Brown, and her brother Lester Lee Hill, Jr. Her survivors include her husband, Hubert Tejan; her daughter, Dana Cunningham; her son, Scott Cunningham and his wife, Barbara, and their children Dallas and Ava; and her beloved brother Edwin Prece Hill.

A memorial service was held on July 28 at The Waterford Senior Living Community in Ridgeland, Mississippi and her graveside service will be in Tyler, Texas at a later date. In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory may be made to The Eaton Village Preservation Society Little White Church Piano and Concert Fund in Eaton, New Hampshire. gofundme.com/f/help-us-rebuild-our-steeple PO Box 31, Eaton Center, NH 03832

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