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Roger John Cunningham

Roger John Cunningham

     Except for Notes and yellow highlights, the below is an excerpt from the
     Obituary of Roger John Cunningham by his daughter Joan that
     describes Roger's amazing, life-long odyssey.

"Roger John Cunningham, age 90, of Hayward, WI passed away on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at the Hayward Nursing Home.

Roger was born to Napoleon "Pipi" and Fern (Smith) Cunningham on January 26, 1918 in Defiance, Ohio, attending grade school and high school there.

He graduated from Defiance High School in 1935 and went on to Defiance College where he had a football scholarship.

In his second year of college he suffered a knee injury that ended his football career.

He figured if he could not play football he had no reason to continue college.

He tried his luck as a salesman selling a number of items, including light bulbs door to door.

In June 1939, Roger married Harriet Jane Sidner.

The following June they had the first of five children, Joan, followed by Jan and John (twins), Jack, and Jim.

By the time World War II started, he was in the tire recapping business and was too valuable to serve in the armed forces for our country, but he was a coast watcher.

After the war, Roger moved his family to a small farm town, Beardstown, IL.

He started a cinderblock business and raised experimental chickens.

He also started a bank designing business.

When he decided to make the bank designing business a full time job, he moved the entire family to Springfield, IL where he also had a cabinet making company.

On Christmas Day, Roger piled the whole family into his airplane and they took off for a two-week vacation in Fort Lauderdale, FL, leaving the Christmas tree up with all the presents under the tree.

Six months later, he went back to Springfield and took down the tree, as Florida was now the new family home.

A few months later, Roger went to California on a bank remodeling job, called his wife and told her to pack up the family as they were moving to California.

He had just bought the Club Del Mar and the Club Deauville in Santa Monica, CA.

After a few words, he decided to come back to Florida and drive the family to California.

So the family loaded up the station wagon with the monkey, dogs, cats, and birds, and pulling the Garwood Speedboat, took off for California looking like the Beverly Hillbillies.

In 1953, Roger was approached by the Henrietta Awards Committee (later to be called the Golden Globe Awards) who wanted him to sponsor the awards at the Club Del Mar.

He also hosted the Foreign Press awards.

Joan believes that, if it had not been for her father, the Golden Globe Awards would not exist today.

Roger entertained such people as John Wayne, Dean Martin, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, and Lloyd Bridges at the Club Del Mar, as well as at his home.

Roger entered into a partnership with Roy Rogers on an 85-foot yacht called the Flamba (meaning fire). They remained good friends until Roy's death.

On one of the family's many boat trips to Mexico, Roger bought a motel in Ensenada.

He moved his family down to Newport Beach, CA and commuted back and forth to the clubs in Santa Monica.

Roger sponsored Florence Chadwick's record swim from Catalina to Santa Monica, the breaking of the world record for depth by a skin diver, entertained the "Queen for a Day" Catalina trip, hosted Jane Withers and Ken Errair's (Four Freshmen singing group) wedding aboard the Flamba.

Roger was a judge for the Newport Beach, CA to Ensenada, Mexico, sailboat races.

At that time, he was also president of the Hill/Cunningham Autopilot Company.

In January 1959, Roger packed up his family in the Flamba for the adventure of a lifetime trip from Newport Beach, CA to Fort Lauderdale, FL via the Panama Canal.

They were caught in a hurricane off the coast of Mexico.

They ran into John Wayne and his wife Pilar and friends in Acapulco.

Duke's friends invited them to visit their home in Panama, but they lost the address.

If they had visited them, the Panamanian government would have confiscated the boat as the friend was a rebel and was on a list to be shot at anytime.

Roger was planning a trip for his family to Mexico City, but there was an auto strike in Acapulco so they could not go.

While in Acapulco, they also met Raul Castro.

Later in Panama, Raul was recruiting money for his brother Fidel Castro to support the revolution in Cuba.

Continuing on their adventure, they hit a very large sea turtle that bent the props on the boat.

Limping into the Canal Zone, they investigated the problem and found numerous Coral Sea snakes wrapped around the props.

They also discovered they had arrived in Panama during a revolution and were advised not to enter the canal zone as there were shots being fired.

Roger's boat, the Flamba, was the first boat to go through the locks on automatic pilot.

They were almost hit by two freighters in the Atlantic Ocean, coming within a few feet.

Approaching within a few miles of Cuba during Castro's revolution, they were stopped by the Coast Guard who thought they might be involved in supporting Castro.

They were escorted by both air and sea into Key West, FL and upon arrival were searched.

In 1960, Roger and Harriet decided to call it a day after 21 years of marriage and divorced.

Roger remarried in 1961 to Mavus Sheridan who had a little girl Stephanie and a boy Stephan; both of whom Roger adopted.

They moved to Puerto Rico where they sailed around the Caribbean and down to South America, returning to California in 1965.

At this time, in Los Angeles, California, Roger started Allstate Title and Trust with a silent partner, the actor/singer Wayne Newton."

          [PFG Note: Roger's title insurance knowledge was limited.

          However, with the help of Lee Flam, a lawyer with years of title
          company experience; and, Paul  Fitz-Gibbon with years of
          branch office development experience in residential construction
          and the real estate broker escrow business.

          Lee and Paul quickly expanded Roger's Allstate Title and Trust
          from a small office located on an upper floor in the Hollywood
          Roosevelt Hotel to ten branch escrow offices throughout
          Los Angeles County.

          This new concept of title company branch escrow offices
          quickly changed the Southern California escrow and title
          company landscape, which minimized the monopolistic hold of
          Title Insurance and Trust Company (Ticor, TI) in Southern

          Ticor tried many legal processes to close the Allstate Title
          Company branch escrow offices; however, California
          antitrust laws trumped the California Corporation Commission
          real estate escrow laws.

          With growing business, Roger sold Allstate Title to a financial
          congeneric that quickly floundered.

          In 1992, Ticor was acquired by Chicago Title and Trust.

          In 2000, Chicago Title was acquired by Fidelity National
          Financial, Inc. (FNF).

          FNF's Title Group became the largest family of title insurance
          companies in the industry.

          Paul Fitz-Gibbon and Bonnie Lu Brown -- a seasoned title
          officer with Chicago Title, who became a Chicago Title vice-
          president -- were instrumental in opening Chicago Title's first
          branch title office in Covina, California.

          Paul then moved to Roger Cunningham's Allstate Title where
          he refined the small branch title office concept to branch
          escrow offices.

         These escrow offices had a competitive advantage of being
          licensed by the state insurance commissioner rather than the
          state corporation commissioner.
          When Allstate Title was sold, Paul began negotiating the
          purchase of Marford Escrow Corporation in Covina, California,
          which at that time was the largest escrow company in Los
          Angeles' San Gabriel Valley.

          After many months, the partners of Marford Escrow couldn't
          agree upon the terms of sale; so, Paul opened Stonewood
          Escrow Corporation in Glendora, California.

          Stonewood Escrow, beginning in 1977, quickly acquired an IBM
          mini-computer, an IBM System 6 word processor with a large
          ink jet printer, IBM electric typewriters; an Addressograph
          Multigraph Varitype phototypesetter with a Comp/Set 500
          composer; a Xerox photo copier; and newly developed, complex
          communication equipment.

          This new "computer age" equipment quickly revolutionized the
          escrow business by making possible a network of small,
          efficient, branch escrow offices.

          Stonewood Escrow was the only multi-service escrow
          company from the mid-70's until 1983 when Paul entered the
          nascent computer business as Dolphin Business Systems, in
          Irvine, CA., which was a Vector Graphics local, computer

          Soon, Paul acquired control of Automated Data Associates,
          Inc., ADA, a public, computer data processing company in
          Rahway, New Jersey.

          ADA developed a networked, escrow accounting service in
          collaboration with both California's Union Bank's escrow
          service department, until the bank's acquisition by Standard
          Chartered Bank of England; and, Pick Operating Systems until
          the untimely death of Dick Pick.]  

"After selling Allstate title company, Roger, Mavus and the children moved to Ensenada, Mexico for a while and then up to Palm Springs, CA.

There Roger opened and ran a nursing home for a few years before moving to Hawaii.

In Hawaii, he opened a health food and candy store where he made homemade candy.

Roger and Mavus divorced in the early 80's.

Within a year or so, he married Chrisie, an old friend from the late 30's.

Roger came back to the Mainland in the middle 80's and brought his candy business with him.

Living in San Diego, CA, he started the Attorney Referral Service that matched clients up with attorneys.

He expanded the company to the Palm Springs area where he also started Utilities Services, a company that audited utility bills to find mistakes made.

Roger's wife Chris died of cancer in 2001.

Shortly after her death, Roger came to live with his daughter Joan in the Spider Lake area near Hayward,WI.

Joan helped Roger make the trip back and forth to California a few times, but he finally decided that his life was now in Wisconsin.

The rest is history. Roger passed away at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 25, 2008.

He will be missed so much!"



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