Hundreds of friends, family members, and acquaintances gathered together at Jeff’s Pirates Cove yesterday in honor of the late Joe “Uncle Tote” Cunningham.
Many were teary-eyed as they passed by photos displaying a younger, happier father with three children flanking him. Cunningham was believed to have been suffering heart problems although no one, not relatives nor friends, was told of his conditions before his passing. Several close friends stated that before he passed, he was reading a book.
“Uncle Tote was one of the most creative and independent person I have ever met. I first saw him going down the streets on roller skates and I found out one day that he went everywhere on roller skates,” said Phil Scott-Smith, a good friend of Cunningham.
Scott-Smith recalled Cunningham as an “independent and free spirit.” Scott-Smith further explained that he wanted to get to know Cunningham and he eventually did. “We became good friends and I was inspired by him the entire time I knew him,” added Scott-Smith.
During an interview of several other close friends, one message was echoed clearly; Cunningham was very, very active in music. He encouraged people to stand up and be happy, embrace life, and make music.
Originating from Nuevo, Kentucky Cunningham first arrived on Guam in 1967 as an airman working for Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War at Andersen Air Force Base. He then joined a band called Marianas Homegrown and started work as a radio personality at KUAM 610.
In the eyes of a son
“A good mentor and a great father.” This was the message given by Cunningham’s son Brandon during a brief interview at the graduation party. “He was a good guy. Always positive, always smiling, he never hated anybody, he never got angry,” said Brandon. “He taught my brother, my sister and me how to play instruments.”
Cunningham’s son also recalled how his father always wanted new challenges all the time and that he did his best in everything. “We’ve had a lot of good memories together. He used to take me swimming every day, going out on the boats, playing music and spending that father-son time,” Brandon said.
When asked if he knew how his father died Brandon said, “He never told any of us about any conditions he might have had because my father never wanted us to feel sad or burdened.”