Roger was born in Toledo, Ohio to Clifford Charles Cunning and Hester Louise Cunning on April 22, 1948. He had one sibling, Gerald (Jerry) Charles Cunning, who was seven years his elder. During his youth, Roger had a paper route and peddled papers the old-fashioned way on a bicycle, tossing the papers onto the front porches. He began piano lessons at age seven and continued for a dozen more years.
He moved with his family to Bowling Green, Ohio while in high school. At age 15, Roger was godfather to his first nephew, Ken Cunning.
Roger’s father died when Roger was 16 years old, instantly making him the “man of the house.” After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Bowling Green State University in 1970, he entered the US Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps as a second lieutenant.
As an officer in the Air Force, Roger primarily served in operating (launching, if needed) our nation’s Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) forces. He held numerous positions of increasing responsibilities and rapidly rose through the ranks, ultimately being promoted to Colonel prior to his USAF retirement.
During his Air Force career, he commanded Titan II, Minuteman II, Minuteman III, and Minuteman III Command Data Buffer missile systems, held key staff positions at the Strategic Air Command’s Headquarters, and the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff for nuclear weapons. His analysis of Presidentially directed war plans resulted in Roger providing a presentation to the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then to the nuclear four-star commanders-in-chief around the world. Eventually, the President changed the entire nuclear posture of the nation because of Roger’s analysis.
Roger’s career turned to Intermediate Range Missiles and in particular, Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM). He became the first chief of operational standards and evaluations of that system deployed in Europe. Again, his ability to analyze the operations of this weapon system resulted in a presentation to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense adopting the nuclear safety rules as a standard for all GLCM forces worldwide.
Roger moved to a second career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), serving in an executive assistant role to the lab’s Director. He provided the Director with strong administrative assistance, to include creation of presentation materials used by the Director when addressing national and international leaders, both in the scientific and political arenas. He also led the team responsible for the Lab’s website.
Roger married Elizabeth in 1996 during his second career while at LLNL. Together, they settled on their church home that fit them as a couple. Elizabeth, a LLNL employee herself, retired from the Lab and then worked full time at their church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Tracy, CA, as its music director. Roger volunteered to assist as the media director, providing renovation to the audio-visual worship and its school.
Roger and Elizabeth remained an innovative team at St. Paul’s for more than 14 years. Eventually, they moved to Manteca, CA and changed their church home to United Lutheran Church.
Roger is the first to say that his time spent as Elizabeth’s partner at church was the best years of his life.
Roger is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Eaves Cunning, son Stefanos Richard Cunning of Wimbledon (London), UK, son Robert Jay Baucom and daughter-in-law, Rosemary Baucom of Riverbank, CA, grandsons RJ Baucom and Matthew Baucom of Riverbank, CA, and brother Gerald Charles Cunning of Toledo, Ohio.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2023, 11:00am, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1635 Chester Drive, Tracy, CA. There will be a reception following the service in the church’s Life Center.
A Committal service is set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, 5810 Midway Road, Dixon, California
In lieu of flowers, monetary gifts may be made to United Lutheran Church, 649 Northgate Drive, Manteca CA 95336.
An online guest book is available at www.frymemorialchapel.com for condolences and special messages to the family.