Obituary: Ruth (Cunningham) Galloway

Surrounded by “her boys”, Ruth passed from her Earthly home and entered into her eternal home in the early morning hours of the Fourth of July, 2018 where she was reunited with her husband, Sonny; her son, Sean; her mom and dad, Maude and Garrett Cunningham; her sisters and their husbands, Georgia (Russell) Coday, Betty (Joe) Cohen, and Barbara (Bruce) Myers, and her mother-in-law, Billie Galloway Rice. We like to think there was quite a fireworks display in heaven upon her arrival!

Ruth Pearl Galloway was born to Maude and Garrett Cunningham on Sept. 25, 1937 in Norwood, Mo. and became the forever “baby” sister of her four older sisters who also were her best friends: Georgia, Lois, Betty, and Barbara. The family lived in Norwood until Ruth was 7 when they moved to California and made Exeter their new home.  

Ruth attended Wilson School from second to eighth grade and graduated from Exeter Union High School in 1955. Shortly after high school, Ruth and her friend, Doris Collins moved to Los Angeles where they worked for the telephone company.  However, when their friends, Pat Mangels and Sharon Baldwin came to visit, the four of them had such a good time that Ruth and Doris decided to return home to Exeter to family and friends.

Ruth continued to count family and friends as priority No. 1 throughout her life. So it was not a surprise that it was her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Russell Coday, that set up a blind date between Ruth and his friend, Sonny Galloway. On their seventh date, Ruth and Sonny eloped and were married in Las Vegas on Aug. 31, 1956. Keeping with their quick pace, there was no time for a honeymoon because Ruth had to get home to serve as Pat (Mangels) Moree’s Matron of Honor. Their whirlwind courtship yielded 59 years of marriage that neither would have traded.  

Most importantly (according to both Ruth and Sonny), their marriage blessed them with two very special and much loved sons: Michael and Sean. Although Ruth often worked outside of the home as the boys went to school, she never missed an opportunity to be the boys’ No. 1 fan and cheerleader at school, a special activity, or (most frequently) a sporting event. Ruth continued this role as “cheerleader” with the birth of each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In addition to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Ruth often took on the role of cheerleader and second mother to a few of Michael and Sean’s friends. It was not unusual to find her other boys at the house even if Michael and Sean were not. Thus, it was never a surprise to find the table set for one or two extra boys or find “extras” waiting in the car to go on an outing.

In addition to spending time with Sonny and her boys, Ruth also shared a lot of time with her sisters (dubbed the “Cunningham Girls”) and their families. The sisters were together so much that they rarely finished a thought or a sentence, yet all five of them knew exactly what was being “shared.” Needless to say, the rest of the family often were left in the “dark” yet family gatherings remained an important part of the Cunningham family life.

Ruth also valued her time with friends. She was blessed with friends from her early work at the Tulare County Library, her work in the Exeter Police Department, the Tulare County Superior Courthouse in Porterville and friends from the family business as well as her life-long elementary and high school friends and her long-time neighborhood and community friends. One special example of the richness of her friendships is “The Canasta Group” who played cards together for 60 years!

Ruth was also an avid reader who read two to three books a week throughout her life in addition to gaining strength from the promises of the Bible in the later years of her life.  After her retirement, she volunteered as an Adult Literacy Tutor as well as serve with her sisters, Georgia and Lois, as the “go-to” cookie ladies for the Exeter Presbyterian Church. Indeed, it was important to Ruth that she return the love and care of her pastor, Jim Newman, and her church family both in cookies and in conversation.

Ruth, affectionately known as “Pearl” or “Ruthie Pearl” by many family members and friends, will be greatly missed and forever loved. 

She is survived by her son Michael and daughter-in-law Sallie; her grandchildren, Amy, Jamie, Joseph, Eric, and Emily; her great grandchildren, Rayne, Rhiannon, and River; her sister-in-law, Lois Scott; as well as many nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews; all who will hold her memory close to their hearts.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 23 at the Presbyterian Church, 200 S. E St. in Exeter.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that consideration be given to making a donation in memory of Ruth to The Exeter Presbyterian Church, 200 South E Street, Exeter, CA 93221; or The Spina Bifida Association of California, SBA 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

Arrangements by Smith Family Chapel in Exeter, Calif. Online condolences may be made at 

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