We are a Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, serving as a Catholic Irish Fraternal Organization for the Northern Virginia, Ashburn, Sterling, Potomac, and Loudoun County, VA area, although we also have members who live as far away as Texas. As such, we espouse the principles of Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.
Some of our events include an Annual Trip to Ireland Raffle, the proceeds of which support our charitable goals. We work with other community, fraternal, and religious organizations such as the Knights for Columbus to provide Sweats for Vets. You will see us marching in local Irish festivals and parades in Manassas, Alexandria, and Leesburg, VA. We also support Right To Life, Irish Catholic Causes, and local Irish immigration causes.
Our Division honors Col. Thomas J. Cunningham. In the words of one of our original members, the late Ned Woisard, “Thomas J. Cunningham, Jr. was a gentleman — and a gentle man. He was considerate, kind, outgoing, warm, friendly. He personified the Christian ideal — wherever he went, he sowed joy. He was a communicator! He was trained in communications; he practiced communications; toward the end, in a sense, he taught communications.”
Tom was born in Pittsburgh on September 19, 1918, found his way to the University of Indiana for his Bachelor’s Degree, then to American University for a Master’s Degree in Public Relations. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1941 and, 26 years later, retired as a colonel. While in the Army, he was a communicator. In Vietnam, he was Chief of Communications for General Westmoreland, was responsible for Radio Saigon and was a major factor in introducing military and civilian television into the Republic of Vietnam. Tom was editor of ARMOR MAGAZINE and European editor of STARS AND STRIPES, the two largest circulation publications in the Armed Services. Among other awards, he received THE LEGION OF MERIT and the BRONZE STAR.
Later as a civilian, Tom directed communications and magazine programs for five national organizations, including the National Defense Transportation Association, and the Retired Officers Association. Toward the end of his life, he was a Communications and Marketing Consultant to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the American Society of Naval Engineers. Tom was a communicator to the end.
Looking at the more personal side, Tom was Vice President of the Col. Fitzgerald Division, the largest AOH Division in Virginia, and a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus. He was also a daily communicant, an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and an altar server (when needed). He was a true Christian, always a source of joy to those around him, always a calming influence in times of stress, always willing to pitch in and help — or take the lead if necessary. He was a most convivial spirit, good company, a friend to all. Tom was an outstanding communicator and, most of all, he communicated love!
Thomas J. Cunningham entered eternal life on June 26, 1995. One of his four daughters, Barbara Lynn, predeceased him in 1953 and his wife, Marcella, died in 1997. His surviving daughters are Connie Venberg of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Sally Dina of Brentwood, Tennessee; Kathryn Starr, of Roswell, Georgia. One of his three brothers, Martin, of Annandale, Virginia, is a member of the Cardinal Cushing Division of the AOH.
This description may make Tom appear to be a saint and it would not surprise me a bit if he were standing in the presence of the Lord right now! But let’s play it safe! Please keep Tom in your prayers – and also the Col. Thomas J. Cunningham, Jr. Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians!
Our 1st Memorial Mass honoring Col. Thomas J. Cunningham, Jr which included our Charter Chaplain
Late 80s photo, probably at Sterling Ruritan Club