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Zella Jo (Jody) Cunningham

Portrait of Zella Jo (Jody) Cunningham

Zella Jo (Jody) Cunningham, 69, of Williamstown, WV, passed away peacefully at Marietta Memorial Hospital on October 8, 2019 with family by her side after a Brief but fearless fight with pancreatic cancer.

Jody was born in New Martinsville, WV on September 30, 1950 to Joseph Carl Bucher and Dora Angeline (Brown) Bucher. The middle of five children, Jody enjoyed all the perks that came with the title of “Mom’s favorite”. Jody and her younger brother Carl Bucher shared a unique bond that has endured throughout their lives.

Jody graduated in 1968 from Valley High School in Pine Grove, WV. She then went on to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Fairmont State College in 1971, then in 1976 earned a Master of Arts degree in Biology from West Virginia University, and continued her pursuit of knowledge completing more than 40 hours of post-graduate training. She taught for nearly 40 years in both Pleasants and Wood Counties at the junior high and high school levels, until finally retiring in 2011 as an AP Biology and Anatomy teacher at Parkersburg High School. She achieved National Board certification in 2004, a prestigious marker of excellence in education, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Later, she became a part of the team who were instrumental in developing several texts and general science requirements for this certification. She served as president of the West Virginia Science Teachers Association and as a Science Mentor Teacher with the West Virginia State Science Department. Being the amazing woman she was, Jody was selected West Virginia Biology Teacher of the Year in 1987 and received the WVSTA Distinguished Fellow Award for outstanding contributions to science education in West Virginia.

Jody was active for 43 years in the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs (GFWC) since joining as a Williamstown Juniors in 1976. She twice served as the president of the Williamstown Woman’s Club as well as holding all other board positions. At the state level she served on the Junior Board and Council from 1984-1992 and was statewide Director of Junior Clubs from 1990-1992. Her leadership skills led her to roles as Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Second Vice President, First Vice President, and finally President of GFWC West Virginia in 2014-2016. She was awarded Lifetime Membership status after completing her term as President.

Among her contributions to the community was the restoration and protection of the Williamstown Wetlands and the construction of walking paths and seating areas around them. Jody’s commitment to serving others was recognized through an official Proclamation from the Mayor of Williamstown declaring May 4, 2014 as Jody Cunningham Day for her outstanding contributions to the local community.

Jody was bestowed with the loving nickname of “Diddy” by her oldest granddaughter Mackenzie. This pleased her no end and was later adopted by her close friends and family. Jody had a great love for life and spending time with her grandkids. Whatever they were doing and wherever they were was of the utmost importance to her. Jody loved her family with everything she had and more.

Jody was an amazing and loving wife, mother, and grandmother, “Diddy”. Surviving are her husband of 47 years, David, whom she met on the first day of Botany class their freshman year at Fairmont State College, her two children Carrie Read (Aaron) of Parkersburg, WV and Rob Cunningham (Stephanie) of Westerville, OH, her seven grandchildren Mackenzie, Luke, Abby, and Jack Read of Parkersburg, and Allie, Evan, and Addie Cunningham of Westerville; her mother Dora Bucher of Reader, WV; and her siblings Raye Burgess, Kaye Tracy, Carl Bucher, and Doug Bucher of Reader, WV. She was preceded in death by her father Joseph Carl Bucher.

Visitation will be held on Saturday October 12, 2019 from 3:00 to 5:00pm at McClure-Schafer-Lankford Funeral Home, 314 Fourth St. Marietta OH. Funeral services will be held on Sunday October 13, 2019 at 2:00pm with one hour of visitation prior to the ceremony. Interment will follow at Riverview Cemetery in Williamstown, WV.

Please consider donating to the American Cancer Society ( and/or The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network ( to help fund research to find a way to fight against this dreadful disease which took this loving, accomplished woman’s life far too soon.