Except for Notes and
yellow highlights, the below is an excerpt from the
Obituary of Roger John Cunningham by his daughter Joan
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
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
He figured if he could not play football he had no reason to continue
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
At that time, he was also president of the Hill/Cunningham Autopilot
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
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
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
Roger's boat, the Flamba, was the first boat to go through the locks on
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
Roger's title insurance knowledge was limited.
However, with the help of Lee Flam, a lawyer with years of
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
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
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
congeneric that quickly
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
Paul then moved to Roger
Cunningham's Allstate Title where
he refined the small
branch title office concept to branch
These escrow offices had a
competitive advantage of being
licensed by the state
insurance commissioner rather than the
When Allstate Title was
sold, Paul began negotiating the
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
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
Multigraph Varitype phototypesetter with a
composer; a Xerox photo copier; and
newly developed, complex
This new "computer age"
equipment quickly revolutionized the
escrow business by making possible a network of small,
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
Bank of England; and,
Operating Systems until
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
In Hawaii, he opened a health food and candy store where he made
Roger and Mavus divorced in the early 80's.
Within a year or so, he married Chrisie, an old friend from the late
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
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
will be missed so much!"