Marilyn Frank Cunningham
There have been several members honored with the distinguished member award. Many of them were involved in the beginning stages of this organization, even before it had a name. Once this organization started to evolve, there were people behind the scenes that kept everything running smoothly. On of those people is Marilyn Frank Cunningham. She has been a member for 34 years and not only meets the minimum of 5 of the 8 requirements, but all 8! For sure she has been “helping” NSTRA for a long time. She has judged over 90 field trials, and marshaled and coordinated field trial at all levels so long that we don’t have a record of them all. If being a judge, a field marshal, and a national trial coordinator wasn’t enough, she has been a national officer since 2002. (Yes, we finally found the “official” date!) Ask anyone who has been a national officer, or even region officer, and they will tell you anyone who takes on that job for 5 terms has to be a committed individual.
One of her great contributions has been the Illinois Region Shriner’s trial. Ron Huels says there is no way he could do it without her. She has been doing the clerical work far longer than anyone. Many of you have drawn weekend trials and some regionals. It isn’t always easy keeping things straight. Try drawing 6 full fields for 2 days and keeping track of all the entries and runs. That is more than even a national trial, and she does that too!
She has coordinated all the National trials, more than once, and traveled all over the country with Bob, grandson Steven and now, her little dog Sam. There aren’t many members she doesn’t know and she has a fun story to tell about most of them. In Florida, her winter home, she opens her home for judges and bird planters to stay during the Quail Invitational. She treats everyone like family while they stay with her. She feeds them, offers the upmost hospitality and uses her own car and gas to ferry them and their gear around and to and from Orlando airport and saves NSTRA thousands of dollars in motel and rental car fees.
For me, she was my lifeline when I came to work for NSTRA 11 years ago. If Marilyn wasn’t the person she is, with the knowledge she has accumulated and retained, and willing to share, I would have been lost. Many, many, many times, I have called her and asked for help or information on how to do something. She has always cheerfully agreed to help me, provide the documentation, or at least give me a place or time to go to look for whatever I need. She is the key to the bank of NSTRA history.
Outside of NSTRA, there is no one any more dedicated to her family and her faith. She is a God-fearing woman and her faith surrounds her in everything she does. She truly loves her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and now, great-granddaughter. Her Facebook account always has pictures of one of their latest activities or accomplishments. She is quite crafty with her sewing and quilting and I know from the recipes she has given me, that she is an exceptional cook!
Ron Huels nominated Marilyn for this award and this quote from his nomination letter says it all:
“Marilyn Cunningham IS the HEART and SOUL of NSTRA. She has truly earned the highest award that can be given by NSTRA.”
“Marilyn Cunningham IS the NSTRA’s Most Distinguished Member!!”
What does it take to be selected as a Distinguished Member? In addition to the written qualifications it takes something special; a spark, a commitment, a desire to make our organization better and the work ethic to see that it gets done. Ron Huels is the epitome of the “something special”.
Ron is the ultimate volunteer. He has judged and field marshalled numerous national, regional and weekend trials, often on back-to-back weekends. He donates his time and resources for many events and even took on the job of a National Officer for a few months when we had a vacancy. He didn’t sit back and bide his time either. No, he jumped right in and started asking questions and providing his advice right from the start. That is the way Ron is. If you ask him to do something, he does it with gusto!
In 2005, the Illinois Region, with Ron in the lead, took on the task of hosting a large trial where all the money raised was donated to the Shriners’ Crippled Children’s Hospital. Ron works hard to make sure this event goes off without a hitch. In addition to the entries, he has to round up volunteer officials and work to get items donated. No easy task, but with his friendly nature and hearty hand shake, he is successful year after year. Last year, after government funding issues closed his regular trial grounds, he had to secure a new location with little time to spare. Again, he was determined and successful. This trial raised over $27,000.
Ron is appreciative and never fails to thank people for their assistance and hard work. He is the guy to go to if you are new. He welcomes you as if you were his oldest friend and will steer you in the right direction or to the people you can help you the best. NSTRA and the Illinois region have benefited from having Ron Huels as a member and thank him for his service.
To get a sense of the influence Al has over members in the Illinois region you have to know that he was nominated by three different people. We can quote statistics of how many trials he has judged and the number of dogs he’s championed but what really matters is the kind of NSTRA member he represents.
If you wanted to describe the ideal NSTRA member, some words would come to mind like competitive, fair, helpful, objective, well-respected, and friendly. Al embodies all of these and then some. All of the nominations emphasized his integrity and sportsmanship. He is admired for his willingness to give advice and encouragement to anyone, from the newest member with everything to learn, or to a leader that needs a clear and objective opinion. Al has graciously contributed his time to help out the Illinois region when they need it most. Proof of that is the innumerable times he has donated his services to judge the Shriner’s trial over a 20 year span.
It is not unusual to enter a trial in the Illinois region and be braced against a dog that at some point or another has been trained by Al. It is also not unusual for Al to sell a dog to a young person at a very reasonable price so that he/she can remain involved in a competitive way. It is also not unusual to go to a trial and be braced against Al for one of his many runs. To this day, at the age of 80 Al still runs his dogs in trails every weekend with the only concession that his is willing to make to age is that he now rides a four wheeler when handling his dogs. No one wants to be braced against this octogenarian. He is no easy draw!!
We believe that NSTRA is a better organization because of Al Greeling’s participation over the years. We are fortunate to call him our friend and mentor.
2005-2007, Illinois Region President National President
1990-1992, National President