Enlisted early, died too young
From the alumni journal of Princeton, 1943:
With the deepest regret we learn of the loss of our classmate, Paul Briscoe Cunningham, whose plane crashed during maneuvers at Jacksonville, Fla., on March 15. Paul is the first member of our class to give his life in the service of his country. Enlisting shortly after Pearl Harbor, he demonstrated the same fine qualities in the Naval Air Force that he had shown at Princeton. To his mother, family, and many friends we extend our very sincere sympathy and consolation.
P.B., as he was known to his intimate friends, was one of those rare persons who leaves an indelible imprint wherever he goes. One of the finest bases in the choir, an imposing figure upon the rostrum, and a true leader in every sense of the word, he inspired admiration and confidence in one and all. Paul's sacrifice, "his last full measure of devotion," speaks for itself and needs no elaboration. When we face sacrifices in the days to come we shall do so with his courage and memory before us.
At age 15, Paul was a page for the U.S. Supreme Court which held its sessions back then in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol in Washington, DC. Pages (or document runners in the days before email and fax machines) often traveled to the justices' homes by street car to deliver highly confidential documents. They wore knickers. When they got old enough to wear long pants, they were asked to surrender the prestigious post to a younger man.
Here's Paul (second from left) at his sister Clotilde's wedding to Naval officer William Luce. Must be 1942. That's sister Jane in the darker gown and Austin third from left.Below, please find a letter Paul wrote Clo two weeks before he died.
Great nephews Gordon and Joseph Waldman visit their heroic great-uncles' grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
I came across this snippet from a letter sent to Paul from a fellow classmate at Princeton:
"Dear PB (His full name: Paul Briscoe Cunningham)
Take it easy, conserve your energies, maintain a tranquil mind, be thrifty but lecherous, don't get icky with the 1-2, have a helluva good vacation and I better hear from you and see you damn quick -! Your buddy, Kent"
I am not sure if we can "get" all of this by any means -- but it opens a small window into a youthful friendship and captures a playful moment of camaraderie he shared with this close friend - likely sent shortly before he was killed in the plane accident. His expression in these photos shows his playfulness -- and he must have shared the same amazing sense of humor exemplified by his only surviving brother, Austin - my Uncle Austin.
Let us pause and honor both Paul and Streit this coming Memorial Day - and many times thereafter, while following Kent's advice and enjoying our own limited time on this earth.