'She just loved everyone she met': Hellam Twp. woman killed in Tenn. remembered
A woman killed in Tennessee last week had only lived in York County for about four years, but in that time, she made it her home.
Olivia Cunningham grew up in James Creek, Huntingdon County, but moved in 2015 to Hellam Township with her husband after graduating from Millersville University.
“It’s just amazing how much of a connection she made in both places," her mother, Brenda Miller, said Tuesday, April 23.
Cunningham, 24, was killed outside an outlet in Sevierville on April 16. Miller said her daughter was with her in-laws' family on a shopping trip, and she had stepped outside to call her sister and wish her happy birthday when she was shot.
“Her love for her family, her love for her husband — that's why she was outside," Miller said.
Cunningham and John Marr, 75, of Massachussetts, were shot outside the Tanger Five Oak Mall in Sevierville, Tennessee, by Leon Jones, 21, about 3:50 p.m. that day, according to Sevierville Police. Jones then fatally shot himself.
Cunningham and Jones were pronounced dead at the scene, and Marr was taken to a nearby hospital and was later released, according to police.
Police have said Jones did not know either of them.
Miller said her family is overwhelmingly sad, but they never questioned where her daughter, a devoted Christian, is now.
"We're not in despair, we have that hope, that knowledge — we know where she's at," Miller said.
Olivia and her husband, Caleb Cunningham, started dating in college, and they got married in June 2015 before moving to Hellam Township a month later.
Her daughter's devotion to her religion and helping others was something she showed in her life, according to Miller.
Just before graduating from Millersville University in May 2015, she accepted a position as program coordinator for Friendship Community in Lititz, Lancaster County. Friendship Community is a Christian ministry that assists adults with intellectual disabilities.
As someone who majored in communications, she hadn't gone to college for that career track, but her mother said she became passionate about the job.
Laurel Spagnolo, director of advancement for Friendship Community, agreed.
“She had a true servant's heart, and I think that’s why she fit in so well with our organization," she said.
Spagnolo said Olivia Cunningham was a beloved staff member who was very kind and patient with the people the organization served.
"They just loved her," she said.
Miller said her daughter loved the people she worked with.
"They just all are so supportive of each other, and she loved that environment," she said.
Outside of work she served in her church, Community Bible Church, in Marietta, and she volunteered at the Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services in Columbia, according to Miller.
“Hard-working is synonymous with Olivia," Miller said, adding that she had already paid her college debt off after 3½ years. Olivia Cunningham also graduated from the school in three years.
Miller said her daughter was amazing and servantlike, a person who made everyone feel important.
"She just loved everyone she met," she said.
Because Olivia Cunningham had such an impact on people, both in her hometown and in the York area, her family planned two celebration of life services for her. The first was held Monday, April 22, in Huntingdon.
A viewing for her is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Austin H. Eberly Funeral Home at 104 W. Main St. in Dallastown.
A celebration of life will be held at Community Bible Church at 331 Anderson Ferry Road in Marietta at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“That’s the reason we had to have two services, because we wanted to make sure that those communities had the opportunity to mourn with us and to celebrate her life with us," Miller said.
The impact she had on both communities was "amazing" to Miller's and her son-in-law's families.
"The people that have reached out to Caleb's family, and to our family, have said the kindest words about Olivia," she said.
Miller wanted to thank the York community for all the kind words that they have said about her daughter.
"We have no words to say but thank you," she said.
A GoFundMe page was set up to assist her husband, and since its inception on Wednesday, April 17, the page has raised more than its $9,000 goal.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.