Dr. Bryce Allen Cunningham of North Liberty passed away May 15, 2020. A graveside ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at Oak Hill Cemetery in Coralville, where friends may pay their respects and practice social distancing. A Life Celebration will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County would be most appreciated and may be directed to www.hospicehomejc.org.
He was born June 21, 1932, in Brainerd, Minn., to Mr. Henry Allen Cunningham, owner of Cunningham's Clothing & Sporting Goods, and Mrs. Gerda F. Peterson-Cunningham, a school teacher in the community of Brainerd-Crosby Ironton.
He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Cunningham of North Liberty; children, Catherine Cunningham of Albuquerque, N.M., Renee McAdams-Cunningham of Los Angeles, James and Lisa Wehab-Cunningham of Livonia, Mich., Dave and Mary Knight of Boone, Iowa, and Cheri Knight-Miller of Rochester, Minn.; grandchildren, Elayna Cunningham of Livonia, Amy Knight, Dan and Jill Blackwell-Knight of North Liberty, Aaron Miller, and Ben and Alicia Miller-Horgen of Rochester, Minn.; and great-grandchildren, Henry and Selma Horgen of Rochester and Evelyn and Leah Knight of North Liberty; as well as a myriad of cousins, in-laws, friends and colleagues scattered across the upper Midwest.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Gerda of Crosby; Henry of Minneapolis; and stepmother, Florence Olson-Cunningham of Minneapolis; his sister, Roberta Cunningham of Crosby; his wife, Marilyn F. Berge-Cunningham of Coralville; and son, Robert A. Cunningham of Austin, Texas.
Growing up in the Minnesota "Cuyuga Iron Range" during the Great Depression and in the shadow of two world wars, Bryce spent much of his childhood hunting and fishing around Pelican Lake, occasionally working in his father's clothing store, which catered to the iron miners, and helping out in the victory gardens of both of his grandmothers who cared for him after the loss of his mother and sister. In high school, he took additional interest in football, taxidermy, billiards and photography, even having one of his photographs of a plane crash published in the Brainerd paper in the 1940s.
His love of photography and fascination with developing and printing his own film led to a deep interest in chemistry. In college, he supported himself with a portable portrait studio, photographing weddings, graduations, fraternity parties and formal portraiture. It was while studying philosophy at the University of Minnesota that he met and married violinist and South Dakota farm girl Marilyn Berge of Sisseton. She helped with his portrait studio and supported him by working in the U of MN veterinary school as an artist. She encouraged him to explore veterinary medicine. However, the hands-on experience of birthing a calf swiftly redirected his focus back to a "lab-coat" environment, and biochemistry proved to be a better fit. After starting a family and a job search, the new doctor of biochemistry found tenured employment in 1963 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., where he taught biochemistry for the next 23 years. He is fondly remembered by his graduate and doctoral students for his ingenuity and generosity as he invented and built tools and machines to accommodate experiments, assisted his foreign students with translation services and cultural navigation and shared the bounty of his own victory garden. With Marilyn, he raised four children in a modest house filled with music and art lessons, photo and home projects, dogs and cats, gardening and canning, cool cars and untoppable puns. He also enjoyed regular 3-cushion billiard games with his faculty buddies and the occasional fishing trip with his three sons.
In addition to his professorship in the 1970s, he subcontracted to do independent research for pharmaceutical firms. As he excelled in the craft of extrapolating enzyme assays for medical and industrial applications, specifically to create a test to assess heart attack sufferers, Marilyn encouraged him to do this on a larger scale for himself and Bio-Research Products Inc. was born. It started in the old Pioneer Press building on Yuma Avenue in Manhattan and, outgrown by 1986, the decision was made to move to the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus Tech Innovation Center in Coralville, Iowa. Here, Bio-Research Products eventually grew into a three-building research complex in the heart of North Liberty with 17 employees and a microbe research collaboration project with the University of Iowa, and of course, a two-acre victory garden and orchard. In 1991, his wife Marilyn tragically succumbed to lymphoma at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. In 1993, he married Phyllis Wilcox-Knight of Boone. Making a new home in Coralville together, he continued to be the innovative and generous supporter of the arts, his employees' continued education, his family, and the North Liberty community. He also loved to travel and garden in his spare time.
In 2013, he retired and sold Bio-Research Products to the Canadian firm IBEX Pharmaceuticals. In 2017, Bryce and Phyllis moved to the Keystone Place Retirement Community in North Liberty and in January 2020, he was admitted to the Bird House Hospice Center in Iowa City, where he continued to enjoy a reputation amongst the wonderful staff as a kind and gentle soul to the very end, entering into peace surrounded by love. Those who loved and adored him will always hold him in our hearts as a Titan. Till we meet again, "Dr. B," Rest in Peace. Love you more.
Online condolences may be sent to www.lensingfuneral.com.