JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – It’s been a year since Chris Cunningham, Lieutenant of the Jacksonville Sheriff, died while on the job of COVID-19. There weren’t any vaccines back then.
Cunningham’s wife Lisa says she doesn’t understand the hesitation of some when it comes to getting vaccinated after seeing her husband battling the virus for weeks.
“Last year has been just amazing,” said Lisa Cunningham, smiling and shaking her head.
She has gotten good at smiling in the face of trouble, but as News4Jax spoke more to Lisa Cunningham about her life since her husband’s death, it became clear the deep emptiness his death left.
The last time we sat down for an interview with Mrs. Cunningham, it was just three months since her husband died after contracting COVID-19 while on duty.
Since then, she has been amazed at the reluctance of even family members to get a coronavirus vaccine.
“Those who didn’t have the vaccine ended up in the hospital,” she said of a handful of family members who all attended a relative’s birthday party with her.
Regarding others who have chosen not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Ms. Cunningham said, âMany of you know what happened to Chris and for whatever reason they are still convinced of it that propaganda is playing with the vaccine and I really don’t understand. “
In honor of the lieutenant, Lisa Cunningham finished decorating his man’s den for him – a backyard garage that Lt. Cunningham wanted to use it to renovate old cars. It now commemorates her husband, filled with his awards and all the honors she and her family received, domestically and abroad, when he died last August.
Since then, Ms. Cunningham has received many health and wellness certifications to expand her business to include free spa treatments – Healthy Solutions. She offers these free services to the disadvantaged in her community in northwest Jacksonville.
Lisa Cunningham explained that this was always part of the plan she had with her husband’s support – to care for those who needed it most. It’s a plan that began shortly after the family moved to the Garden City neighborhood about nine years ago.
This plan now motivates her to continue the work that she and her husband started together, such as a free facial and massage that we watched as she tended 73-year-old Mistress Evelyn Bankhead, who was in her years of battling the Cancer won.
“You are still here in my heart, so your life is within me,” she said, remembering the love of her life. “So we’re going to take this walk and make a difference now more than ever!”
Mrs. Cunningham also helped fill some of the void with a service dog named Chris, who happened to be born on her birthday – the same day her husband died.
“That’s how I honor Chris,” she said. âI can say Chris! Christoph! His name is still mentioned in my house. “
A year later, little Chris is much taller and has a police badge on his collar.
Ms. Cunningham also has a number of people in the ward who check her out on a regular basis, including the area resident Jerome Mathis, who has known the family since the couple began their community service.
âYou know when some people say, ‘Put that shirt off your back?’ This man gave you his best shirt, âsaid Mathis about Lt. Cunninghnam, whom he considers a true friend.
“You just adopted me, like, adopted,” he said, hugging his chest in awe. “We just clicked, you know?”
Mathis got emotional talking about the time the lieutenant gave him an old ride-on lawnmower outside the C&L Professional Care and Rehabilitation Services building on Moncrief Dinsmore Road. It’s a facility the couple bought to give the disadvantaged access to everything from medical care to computer literacy.
Mathis stated that Lt. After receiving a key to the mower, Cunningham said, âYou make me a promise. If you go out there, you’ll make as much money as you want! “
But for the Cunninghams, giving back meant more than just giving away freebies.
Mathis said the couple gave people a sense of self-worth, just as he says Lt. Cunningham invited him to a private barbecue outside the Social Services building. Little did Mathis know that most of the people on the guest list were Jacksonville cops.
âI got here, it wasn’t just all the police back there. I think stop! âMathis laughed. âYou brought me here with all these officers. I said I better not have any arrest warrants! Serious. I felt welcome no matter what. He locked me in. All the same. This guy here is great. “
Continuing that legacy is the promise Lisa Cunningham made to her husband, which also helps.
âTake my eyes off me. Take my sadness out of my eyes when I see someone else smile, âshe explained with tears in her eyes. “It’s amazing to see when you make a difference in someone else’s life.”
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