Samuel Joseph Cunningham, born December 28, 1946 in Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia, was the only son of John W. "Jack" and Ruth E. (Smith) Cunningham. He grew up on Boggs Run, Marshall County, and attended Boggs Run Grade School and Union High School. His best friend throughout those years was his first cousin, John R. Clarke, just 10 days younger.
     Following graduation, Sam attended college at West Virgnia Institute of Technology in Montgomery. At that time he was engaged to Alma Rose Polsinelli of McMechen, Marshall County.
     After dropping out of West Virginia Tech so he could return home and be closer to Alma, he attended West Liberty State College, near Wheeling. At the same time, he worked as an orderly at Reynolds Memorial Hospital.


Sam in the Navy

     Sam and Alma eventually broke up and Sam joined the Navy. After a 4-year enlistment, he returned home and graduated from West Liberty State College.
     While Sam was in college, he returned to work at Reynolds Memorial Hospital. There, he met Frances Ann Shaney of Hopedale, Ohio. The were married in 1973.


Sam & Fran

     Soon after he married Fran, Sam entered the USAF Officer Training School and began his career as an Air Force Officer. They lived in Texas, California, Arkansas, Alabama, England, Japan, North Carolina, Italy and Virginia. Sam and Fran had three daughters, Cortney, Shannon and Jayme.


Sam & Fran with Cortney; Sam with Shannon


Fran with Shannon, Jayme & Cortney


Sam and Fran with Shannon, Jayme & Cortney

     In 1992, Sam reunited with Alma Rose Polsinelli, his first girlfriend. That year, he also underwent a coronary artery bypass. He and Alma married in February 1994 and moved with her sons, Alex and Preston Yutzey, to Crestview, Florida, where Sam was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Sam was happy and contented and he lived many years beyond his doctors' expectations.
     In June 2001, Sam retired from the Air Force but he continued to work full-time - and drive his new red Corvette - until his death on June 2, 2006.


Sam & Alma


Sam with Alex & Preston


Sam & Alma with Preston, Alex & Venusja, Jayme, and Cortney.


Jayme, Shannon & Cortney Cunningham


     CUNNINGHAM, Samuel Joseph, USAF Lt. Colonel (Retired), 59, of Crestview, Fla., formerly of Marshall County, W.Va., died suddenly at home on Friday, June 2, 2006 with his beloved wife, Alma, at his side.
     Sam was born December 28, 1946 in Wheeling, Ohio County, W.Va., the first child and only son of John W. "Jack" and Ruth E. (Smith) Cunningham.
     He attended Boggs Run Elementary School and graduated from Union High School in 1964. After a 4-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from West Liberty State College in 1974. He was commissioned 2nd Lt. in the USAF and spent the next 26 years in military service; he was a navigator on the F-4 Phantom Jet. In 1980, he earned a Master of Science Degree at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. He retired from the USAF in 2001 and was currently working as a research consultant for Dimensional Research, Inc. (DRI) of Marietta, Georgia, and as a consultant with CUBIC Applications, Langley, Va.
     In addition to his wife, the former Alma Rose Polsinelli, Sam is survived by two sons, Alex (Venusja) Yutzey, US Army, Verona, Italy and Preston Yutzey, Crestview, Fla.; three daughters, Cortney, Shannon and Jayme Cunningham of Yorktown, Virginia; three sisters, Linda Fluharty, Baton Rouge, La., Lori Whitwam, Otsego, Minn. and Lisa Lantrip, Redfield, Ark.; two granddaughters, Haley Cunningham and Kimberlyn Jay Smith; and one grandson, Zachary Cunningham.
     There will be no visitation.
     Arrangements are being made for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
     Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association.



Buried August 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery


Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Cunningham is Director of Staff of the Air Force Command and Control Training and Innovation Group (AFC2TIG) at Hurlburt Field, Florida, a subordinate unit of the USAF Aerospace Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The group consists of some 750 military and civilian personnel at 6 locations throughout the United States, and is responsible for Joint Forces Air Component Commander team training/exercising and test and evaluation of command and control systems. Colonel Cunningham, as the AFC2TIG Director of Staff, serves as the commander's manager of a 100-plus-member, 9-division staff comprised of elite military officer/enlisted members and federal/government-contractor employees. The following divisions operate under his direction: Library, Security Program, Personnel, Services, Intelligence, Current Operations, Agile Combat Support, Plans/Programs, Communications/Computers, Modeling & Simulation, Budget/Finance, and Special Applications.

Colonel Cunningham was formerly the Deputy Commandant of the USAF Battlestaff Training School (USAFBTS), AFC2TIG, Hurlburt Field. As Deputy Commandant of USAFBTS, he was second in command in the group's vehicle for executing exercises and other worldwide events and training global-scale C2 warriors (from junior airman to senior general officer). He came to the school following his position as Chief of Headquarters Air Combat Command (HO ACC) Current Operations Division, Langley Air Force Base. As HO ACC Chief of Current Operations Division, he was responsible for the annual Thunderbirds schedule and overall demonstration team program management. Additionally, all aerial demonstrations, "Stealth" air show appearances, and ACC AAR missions were scheduled and managed by the division.

Colonel Cunningham has flown both C-1 30s and F-4s. During his career, he has served on the staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other headquarters staffs, as well as completed a tour as exchange officer with the Royal Air Force (RAF).

He is married to the former Alma R. Polsinelli of McMechen, West Virginia, and they reside in Crestview, Florida. They have three daughters and two sons.


Civilian 1974 Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology/Pre-Med, West Liberty State College, West Liberty, W.Va.
1980 Master of Science Degree in Systems Management, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.

Professional Military 1974 USAF Officer Training School, Randolph Air Force Base, Tex.
1978 Squadron Officer School, residence, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
1987 Air Command and Staff College, residence, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.


1. March 1974-January 1975, Undergraduate Navigator Training, Mather Air Force Base, Calif.
2. January 1975-March 1976, Crewmember, 32nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, C-I 30E, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
3. March 1976-December 1977, F-4 Replacement Training Unit, Luke Air Force Base, Az.
4. December 1977-February 1980, Instructor Weapons System Operator, 25th Fighter Squadron, F-40, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
5. February 1980-January l982, Instructor, Under-Graduate Navigation School, Mather Air Force Base, Calif.
6. January 1982-July 1984, Exchange Officer, Royal Air Force School of Air Navigation, Royal Air Force Finningley, United Kingdom
7. July 1984-August 1986, Flight Commander, 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron (Chiefs), F-4E, Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
8. August 1986-July 1987, Student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
9. July 1987-October 1990, Chief, Operational War Plans Branch, 5th Allied Tactical Air Force, Vicenza, Italy
10. October 1990-August 1994, Chief, Current Operations Division, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va.


Rating: Master Navigator
Flight hours: More than 2,500
Aircraft Flown: C-130, F-4 C/D/E, T-29, T-43, T-38, Jet Provost, Dominie


Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal Air Force Achievement Medal
Combat Readiness Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 bronze stars


Second Lieutenant 11 March 1974
First Lieutenant 11 March 1976
Captain 11 March 1978
Major 1 August 1985
Lieutenant Colonel 1 July 1990


Member, NRA, American Legion, TROA, and Veterans of Foreign War

Web page by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.