Verdery Roberts Cunningham
December 18, 1928 ~ April 22, 2021
Resided in: Sandy Springs, GA
VERDERY ROBERTS CUNNINGHAM
FAMILY MATRIARCH, COMMUNITY AND CHURCH LEADER, OLYMPIC TORCH BEARER, MEMBER OF THE ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AT ITS BEGINNING
Verdery Roberts Cunningham, 92, died April 22,2021, daughter of the late Katharine and Ben Roberts. Atlanta native, graduated Girls High School, attended Stetson University on a music scholarship. She, as an oboist, with sisters Antoinette Floyd [cello] and Katharine Dennison [violin] were members of the Atlanta Youth Orchestra which became the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1946. Henry Sopkin, invited to be the Guest Conductor for the Youth Orchestra in 1945 commented; “A youth orchestra in a community means the beginning of a permanent Symphony.” At the close of World War II, when housing was scarce, the Sopkins, with their two boys, accepted Verdery’s parents generous offer of the second floor of their Morningside home until they were able to build their home. When advised by her future father-in-law that she and med school student, Bob, should have money in the bank before marriage, she sold her Loree oboe for a thousand dollars – a story that became well known to friends. She and Bob met in the 7th grade at O’Keefe Jr. High, first date in the 8th grade and married 8 years later.
Verdery was a member of St. James United Methodist Church and her involvement in church work extended from the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) to the North GA Conference and the Atlanta Roswell District. She was a certified Lab Instructor for 15 years, teaching in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. For 25 years she served on the Conference Council on Ministries and was the first layperson and first woman elected as its President. As a district coordinator of children’s work, she also served on the Conference Children’s Work Council for 22 years and was chair for 17 years. In 1992, she received the Conference United Methodist Women’s Lamplighter Award. She worked with Alice Bagwell and Bea Detrick to start Camp Sparrowwood for developmentally disabled campers at Camp Glisson.
She served on the Urban Action Board for 17 years and received the Frances Sowers Volunteer of the Year Award. In 1996 was elected Chair of the Conference Housing and Homeless Council and continued in that role for 8 years, remaining on the Board through 2017. She was a Trustee of the Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur, GA, and in 1982 was first woman to be elected Board President. She served on this Board for 37 years (11as Emeritus). In 2009, a room for Bible study in the 106 year old Moore chapel was furnished by friends and named “The Verdery Room” in honor of her service to the home. Mr. Bev Cochran, administrator, said, “It would be most difficult to think of anyone who has been a more dedicated servant of our church than Verdery Cunningham.”
Beginning in 2000 she served as the Atlanta Roswell District Lay Leader and Director of Lay Speaking for 4 years and was named Lay Woman of the Year in 2004. Beginning in 2005, an annual Lay Person Of The Year award for the District was named for Verdery. For six years, she served as Conference Director of Lay Speaking. She was an active member of Haygood Methodist Church from 1928 – 1957. As an active member of St. James United Methodist Church for 64 years, her activities included: elementary teacher for 25 years, originator and director of Market Place 29A.D. summer program, member of the Chancel Choir, Women’s Chorus and Handbell Choir, Pre-school chapel leader for 13 years, a Stephen Minister, Worship Chairperson for 25 years and Disciple Bible Study Leader with Bob for 13 years. In 2004, a dream of needlepoint kneelers at the chancel rail became a plan due to the generosity of one church member. The kneelers were completed in 2007. Helen Kite wrote “Verdery you are the one who spearheaded the entire project. You were wonderful and constant.”She volunteered with the Special Olympics Georgia for 8 years, USO at Hartsfield/Jackson airport for 10 years as well as the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. In 2004 she was elected by the Olympic Committee as a torch bearer for the world-wide Olympic Torch Relay. She worked on 4 Youth mission projects in West Virginia and one in Costa Rica, all while in her seventies. After one trip co-worker, Leslie Evans, wrote, “I want to tell you how absolutely wonderful you are! You do so very much. I hope to model my service on your life-ever giving, ever loving, ever serving. You are a rare and splendid jewel-so much life and color and sparkle-oh to be like you!” Her family has hosted international college students at Christmas for 23 years and for one year an American Field Service student, Pilar Darquea, from Ecuador.
She and her husband, Bob, married 70 years, enjoyed hiking in Yosemite and Olympic Parks, Canadian Rockies, Waterton-Glacier National Park, White Mountains in New Hampshire, cycling along the Danube River in Germany and walked glaciers in Alaska just 4 years ago.
She is survived by her husband, Robert Partee, sons Robert Mangrem (Sally), Buck Roberts (Melrose), daughter Verdery Trimmer, granddaughters Gracie and Emily McLaughlin (Conor) grandsons Charlie and Jake Cunningham, Crawford and Clay Trimmer, two great grandchildren, Hope and Aiden, Preceded in death by her daughter, Mary Katharine Cunningham, sisters Frances Smith, Antoinette Floyd and Katharine Dennison and brother, Ben Roberts.
Memorial service at St. James UMC June 19, 2021 (time TBA); burial in columbarium at St. James UMC.
Suggested contributions: St. James UMC, 4400 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd., Atlanta, GA 30342, Camp Glisson,
609 Camp Glisson Road, Dahlonga, Ga. 30533, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (aso.org)