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Rita Gay Cunningham, age 74, of Pascagoula passed away peacefully after a brief illness on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 surrounded by her family and friends. Gay was born on September 8, 1948, in Columbia, Mississippi.
Gay was preceded in death by her parents, Earl & Beatrice Miller Cunningham. She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law, David Cunningham & Bernie O’Sullivan Cunningham of Pascagoula and her niece Jennifer Cunningham Wilson (Mike) of Vancouver, WA. Gay was also survived by many relatives including aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and many children she helped raise of different generations who affectionately called her Gigi, Grandma and Ms. Gay.
After graduating from Pascagoula High School in 1966, Gay went on to study at MGCCC where she received her associate degree. After college, she went on to have a successful career at Ingalls Shipbuilding where she worked until her retirement in 2010. There was a period of time where Gay was also employed with Walmart. Throughout her high school years, Gay worked with church day cares, Vacation Bible Schools, and youth ministries, a job she continued to do throughout her life through various churches which include Calvary Baptist Church, Parkway Baptist Church and Riverside Baptist Church. The number of children Gay touched through her ministry of loving children cannot be measured. There have been many stories told of the children she has inspired or led to Christ, and she was considered a family member by everyone. Gay dearly loved everyone she met and there were many paths she crossed from her neighborhood friends, high school friends, church family, Ingalls, Walmart and so many others along the way. When her brother David married Bernie, Gay was officially adopted by the Jenne family. She often remarked that if their marriage didn’t last Gay got to remain a “Jenne”. Gay was well known for all the cards for various occasions that she sent to people, and she rarely missed a birthday. In fact, there were many cards already addressed found in Gay’s home that she was planning to mail this week. Gay loved books and she loved giving books to children to encourage their love of reading. She was known for loving hymns and knowing them by heart. Gay never had to use the hymnal and had so many favorite songs. She loved the beach and would make many a beach run in her Nissan Xterra and sit for hours at the Point most every day. Some of her other favorite pastimes were going out to lunch and dinner with friends, going to a movie, watching Tennessee Women’s Basketball (she loved Pat Summitt) and Alabama Football in the fall. Gay loved gathering for all holidays and occasions, but her favorite holiday was Christmas, and she had a knack for always knowing exactly what to buy for you, she put much thought into each gift.
Visitation will be Monday, May 29, 2023, 6:00-8:00pm, at O’Bryant-O’Keefe Funeral Home in Pascagoula. Funeral Services will be Tuesday, May 30, 2023, 11:00am, at Riverside Baptist Church ,2211 Canty Street, Pascagoula, MS 39567. Friends may visit at the church from 10:00-11:00am. Graveside Service will follow at Machpelah Cemetery in Pascagoula.
Active pallbearers will be Antron Hollings, Johnny Linton, Joe Moore, Kelly Cowart, Allen Cowart, Dustin Thomas, Ethan Freeman & Al Brimm.
Honorary pallbearers will be the ladies of her Sunday School Class, PHS Class of 1966 graduates, and her longtime devoted friends, and there were many!
Her family is requesting letters and stories you would like to share about Gay, how you met, how she impacted your life or maybe a funny “Gay” story to be brought to the visitation or the service and placed in a Treasure box for the family to appreciate the impact Gay made to your life. There will be pen and paper near the box if you would like to write it there.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to Riverside Baptist Church " in memory of Gay", P.O. Box 1686, Pascagoula, MS 39568, to be used in a special “In Memory of Gay” event in the future. She and her Sunday School Class are known for spearheading the charge to gather toiletries to fit in a gallon bag to distribute to people in need after such things as a hurricane, tornado or flood. She’d say, “If I only had $20 more dollars, I could make more bags!”
Riverside Baptist Church
P. O. Box 1686, Pascagoula MS 39568