Veteran police lieutenant who died with COVID-19 honored at service

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A celebration of life was held Saturday for Lt. Chris Cunningham, a 22-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office who died after weeks in the hospital battling the coronavirus.

COVID-19 protocols were strictly enforced at the Paxon Revival Center on Commonwealth Avenue as family, law enforcement and the community honored Cunningham, who was only 48.

Lt. Chris Cunningham's funeral
Lt. Chris Cunningham's funeral (WJXT)

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue’s Honor Guard played bagpipes as a processional made of the clergy, family and friends entered the service.

“Can we give praise for the life this man lived?” a pastor asked the crowd.

A parade of speakers remembered Cunningham as a family man who dedicated his life to public service.

“His greatest legacy is that of being a son, brother, husband, father and grandfather,” Sheriff Mike Williams said. “Chris’s family know that you will always be part of our JSO family and Chris will live in our hearts forever.”

Cunningham, 48, leaves behind a wife, five children and three grandchildren. Several of them spoke at the service, sharing stories of family, achievements, laughter, dancing and his love of life.

“Dad, you supplied us with the tools that we will use for the rest of our lives,” his son, Cameron Cunningham said. “I really appreciate everything you did for us. We will continue to make you proud. You did your job and now it’s time for us to do ours.”

“I promise to keep your legacy and your name lives on forever,” said Christopher Cunningham Jr. “I promise to have a business and take care of the family near and far just, as you would -- had you still been here. I love you forever and ever, Dad, until we meet again.”

“I knew he cared for us and he loved us and I loved him so much,” one grandchild said. “There’s going to be a piece of my heart missing but things like this can either push you or set you back and I’m in my senior year and I want to do eight and dedicated to him.”

From the program at Saturday's celebration of life.
From the program at Saturday's celebration of life.

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After the service, the American flag that had draped his casket was folded and handed to the family. Outside there was a 21-gun salute, a riderless horse and a flyover by three JSO helicopter.

Our News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson called Cunningham a giant of a man, personally and professionally.

“Chris fought for his family; he fought for his country; he fought for the city. He finished his course. Chris kept the faith,” Jefferson said. “On the dreadful day when Chris was dispatched to heaven and received his last call for service, it hurt us.”

Images of Chris Cunningham his family shared with News4Jax

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Family photo of Lt. Chris Cunningham

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