Fr Vincent Louis Cunniff (“Father Vince”) died peacefully at 102 years old at Marysville in Beaverton Oregon September 28th
— Matthew Green-Hite, CPA
BEAVERTON, OREGON, USA, October 1, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Father Vincent Cuniff was a priest, warrior, & philanthropist.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor broke out while Fr Vince was an engineering student at Oregon State University. He had also worked summers for my Grandfather who was a senior engineer with the Oregon Highway Department. He learned the practical skills of heavy equipment operation and surveying while studying engineering. All of these skills would be applied when he became a priest.
Before the end of his Senior year, he had enlisted in the Army – Air Force and was sent to England as a First Lieutenant. He would fly over 30 bombing missions with his unit (392nd Bombardier Group) out of England in World War II.
Although well hidden in my Grandfathers trunks in the attic and NEVER discussed; Vince won the US Air Medal (“Heroic or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (“Extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight”), among other medals and ribbons.
My favorite story was the accidental bombing of Schaffhausen Switzerland. Although accidental (weather, ground speed winds, and dead reckoning caused the bombing of an almost identical train yard of their mission), it did result in the destruction of local manufacturing of ball bearings and bomb site manufacturing for the Nazis, as well as the destruction of a Nazi munitions train that was parked there. To this date, many Swiss believe that the mission was intentional. Apparently, they didn’t notice the date – April 1st, 1943 (yes, April Fools Day ) President Franklin apologized to the Swiss, and the US Government paid $4 Million in reparations (see the SECRET letter; OSS (CIA) to General Arnold).
During his wartime experiences, Vince received his calling to become a priest. He was forced to go to a seminary in Denver, CO because most seminaries – including Mt Angel – were uncertain about soldiers becoming priests. He received his seminary education in Denver (despite having to switch from engineering/science/mathematics to Latin and Philosophy) and was ordained in the Portland Archdiocese in 1953 by Archbishop Howard.
Although with his background, skills, and keen business mind he could have risen within the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, Vince knew from day one that he wanted to remain a parish priest, working with parishioners one on one. This did not stop the Archdiocese from using his unique skills. A great many of the parishes he led went from being in the red to being in the black financially under his leadership. And he was not shy about obtaining permits, surveying parish project sites, and even running the heavy construction equipment when necessary – all the while explaining the tax advantages to many contractors. (Sidney Poitier’s role in “Lilies of the Field” always comes to mind when I think of him).
One thing that very few people knew about Vince was his keen business mind. As the only boy in a large family, and his father died, he took to support the family early. When only 9 years old, during the Great Depression, he was parking cars for clients. Never mind that he had to sit on a stack of phone books and use a stick for accelerator and brakes. Later, his work with the Oregon Highway Department would pay his own way into Oregon State University. He continued all his life to study investing and taught much of it to my brothers and me. Vince was one of the only people I know to actually make a profit on Whoops bonds (at the time the largest municipal bonds failure in the country) because of intense and careful research. And every year he was grateful for my family’s Christmas present to him – the Wall Street Journal. He applied this ability to every Parish under his management.
It was his keen ability to invest that allowed him to conduct his philanthropy over many years. His own needs were spartan; his only “toy” over the years was his old salmon boat! He conducted many large donations and contributions to foundations and causes over the years – most of which many of us have never heard of, due to his humble spirit. One contribution – of $100,000 – WAS public news; it was a matching grant to the Catholic Church for scholarships to Catholic schools. Leave it to Vince to double his own contribution.
Vince caught pneumonia and COVID shortly after his 100th birthday and we were told he would die in a few days. But his indomitable spirit and intense faith helped him recover; he gave us exactly two more years to enjoy his company. Father Vincent Cunniff – Father Vince – died in the early hours of September 28th, after receiving anointing and the apostolic blessing from Bishop Ken Steiner the previous day.
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Vince – Warrior / Priest