When asked how to spell her last name, Marian Cunnings replied, “Like a cunning fox.”
Cunnings was all smiles at her centennial birthday celebration Aug. 24 at Hampton Fields Village, the UPMC Senior Community where she has lived since 2009. Amid hugs, kisses and well wishes from her fellow residents, she wore a birthday tiara and laughed as she recalled some of her life’s most exciting moments.
Originally from Wilkinsburg, Cunnings graduated from Verona High School and then studied at the Moody Bible Institute. Following a few years of traveling in the United States, she became a bank teller at the Bloomfield branch of Pittsburgh National Bank, where she worked for 30 years.
With some prompting from one of her tablemates in the Hampton Fields dining room, Cunnings shared one of the most exhilarating moments from her career: In 1969, she played a critical part in stopping a heist at her bank.
Cunnings recalled how the robber first approached the window that was two down from hers and aggressively demanded money. She secretly alerted the police and then handed over her money without protest. When the thief left the bank, police were on the scene to arrest him. When she identified the man in court, his friends came after her. “They told me they were going to get me one night in my sleep and hang me by my toes,” she said, now able to look back at the ordeal with a smile.
When asked for her secret to living to 100, she replied, “Trusting the Lord,” but the running joke at Hampton Fields is that it is because she never married. Despite several proposals, she said, she preferred to carry on with her independent lifestyle.
While working at the bank, she traveled the world during her time off, and she was an accomplished, self-taught artist and an avid reader. Nowadays, her favorite activities at Hampton Fields are playing bingo, reading the Bible daily, and watching “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right.”
“Marian’s is the first 100th birthday we’ve celebrated here at Hampton Fields,” said activities coordinator Marilyn Lynch. “She is a special lady, and we are thrilled to honor her with a special celebration.