first published on March 14, 2014...
to start this lovely story i need to take us back to the summer of 1983. i was a young, naïve, yet extremely driven twenty something, fresh out of grad school with degrees in public administration and social work. i was chosen as a united way of america national intern, a highly selective program designed to fast track women and minorities into leadership positions within that organization.
i had asked to come to cleveland, not because i was from ohio, rather at that time this city had the most number of ten thousand dollar donors and i wanted to see how they had accomplished that distinction, with the idea that i could take the knowledge and replicate it in other cities.
my first week in cleveland, i was assigned to work in the manufacturing and industrial sections of the campaign, which at that time was organized by sic codes. a few buildings down from the 3100 euclid avenue headquarters of united way, was a company called bearings, inc. the president of this company, john cunin, had been recruited as a volunteer leader.
i remember the first walk down to his office like it were yesterday. as most young women wanting to succeed at that time, i was wearing a navy blue suit with a high collared blouse and navy blue pumps, despite the humid temperature of the hot august day. i was eager in my assignment, yet nervous to be entering the office of a company president. i need not have worried as mr. cunin was a delightful man. he immediately had me feeling at ease as we got to work on that year's campaign. we had several meetings that fall in his office, sometimes ending with lunch across the street at the local deli.
i left town that december to return to alexandria, virginia for further training at the national headquarters, likely to never see mr. cunin or the other wonderful volunteers i had worked so closely with in cleveland. but life has a funny way of turning around. the following year i returned to the city on a more permanent basis and once again i had the pleasure of working with mr. cunin.
now fast forward three decades later and the phone rings in our quilt shop. the readout indicated the call came from the cunin residency. the woman on the other end of the line asked if we had a certain fabric, which we did. the next afternoon a beautiful grandmotherly face walked in and asked for the fabric. i knew by her question she was the woman who called the previous day. so i asked her if she was any relation to john cunin. her face lite up like the star atop a christmas tree. she asked how i knew him so i shared the story above. as her eyes welled with tears, she told me john was her beloved husband. she also told me he had passed away much too young in 1993. as i reached out to give her a hug, i knew a friendship was developing.
over the course of the next few years, marilyn and i shared some wonderful afternoons together in our quilt shop. we discovered that we have many things in common, including our special daughters. i learned of her dedication to our lady of the wayside, where her daughter mary catherine aka cookie, would occasionally go for respite care before she passed at the age of seventeen. we also discovered we share a love of sewing. soon marilyn was bringing in bags she had stitched together with fabric from our shop. sarah takes those bags and fills them with goodies from just a buck and a matching pillowcase she makes. we then deliver them to the little ones in the same hospital sarah received so much of her care.
precious marissa was one such recipient. we had been following her family's blog for sometime and when we heard she had been diverted to the cleveland clinic while her family was traveling from florida to michigan, we just knew she needed one of the bags. lovingly stitched by the hands of two great ladies, both inspired by beautiful angels in heaven.
oddly enough, even though this collaboration has been going on for nearly three years, marilyn and sarah had not met in person, until this week. i tell you from observation, it was love at first sight. sarah enthusiastically shared links on her ipad with marilyn. it was a beautiful exchange of a connection born more than thirty years before.
marilyn cunin at the young age of 84, is a beacon of light in our community. her dedication to philanthropy is extraordinary. she continues to be actively involved in many organizations including being a board member of the bruening foundation. we are honored and very lucky to call marilyn and her daughter jane, our friends.