Sloane Mary “Mrs. Cunningham” Wulf, 84, returned to her heavenly home Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, after a valiant battle with a chronic illness. Her love of family gave her strength during her final days, her devotion to God ultimately gave her peace.
Waiting to greet Sloane at the gates of heaven were her husbands, William Cunningham and Mike Wulf; children, Tara, Kerry, Shawn and Danny; siblings, John and Daniel; and parents, Colonel Daniel and Edith Murphy and Kitty.
Sloane was born in New York, where she was raised by her cherished Irish Catholic parents. She was the oldest of four children, and the big sister to a sister and two brothers. As the big sister, she doted on her brother John, who was born with cerebral palsy. John would “light up” when his big sister walked in the room. She had a very soft, warm and gentle way with him, and he would fill with joy at the sight of her. Sloane was especially close with her father whom she adored and admired. Many of the lessons Sloane taught her own children were passed down from her father…loyalty and love of family was on the top of Colonel Murphy’s list. His little “Irish Princess,” Sloane’s official title that sustained rank until her passing, raised her children with a strong devotion to just such values.
During her grade and high school years, she attended an all-girl Catholic School. Sloane had a beautiful voice and sang in the choir. She excelled in literature and the arts, writing Christian and romantic poems and painting landscapes. Sloane was an amazing dancer, a skill she kept fine-tuned her entire life. Often she would accompany her beloved father, aka “Colonel Fred Astaire,” to the officers club for an evening of dancing.
Sloane’s first love as a young lady was a trick pony named Blaze. This love affair with horses and animals would give her the greatest joy throughout her life. She learned to trick ride on Blaze, showed Quarter Horses, and enjoyed going to the horse races till her 84th birthday. Sloane was one of the first Virginia Beach residents to donate a horse, a grey Quarter Horse Champion named “Playboy,” to the Virginia Beach Mounted Patrol Unit. She was an active member of the American Quarter Horse Association. Sloane also raised Newfoundlands, Great Danes and Australian Shepherds. She showed Siamese cats, winning many grand champion awards at Madison Square Garden. No matter where Sloane called home, it was always on a farm filled with many, many, many animals.
Sloane continued her education earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She spent most of her life caring for her hospitalized patients, private nursing in homes and working with mentally and physically disabled children. Her final position as a nurse was with Saint Mary’s Infant Home for Disabled Children in Norfolk. Each holiday season Sloane would volunteer to take three to four of the children from the home to her house so they could celebrate the holidays as a family with her children and animals. During the Special Olympics at Saint Mary’s, Sloane and her children would participate in all the games with the kids. Nurse Sloane was always sneaking in one of her animals for the children to play with. Her nursing and caring skills were unparalleled.
When her daughter Kerry slipped into a comma for a few months and the doctors said she would not survive, Sloane would not hear of it. So, Sloane set up a schedule for herself and all her children to be at Kerry’s side every moment of the day and night to sing to her, comb her hair, tell her jokes and let her know she was not alone and loved. Kerry came out of that comma and lived a full life for 15 more years. The stories of Sloane’s caring nature are endless.
Caring for children and family was the most important part of Sloane’s life. As a young widowed mother of 10 children, she was a dedicated and determined mother first and foremost. She started her family in New York, where she sent her children to Catholic school and raised them on a beautiful farm in the Catskill Mountains. Her favorite day of the week was Sunday when she would dress her little angels in their Sunday attire and take them to church. Here is where Sloane’s love of song was introduced to her children, as the entire family sat in the church choir pews during Mass singing along.
Sloane created a beautiful home for her family, with large family dinners, lots of cookouts, lots of outside activities and adventures. She taught her children about responsibility and teamwork. She had a list of chores that all the children helped perform throughout the farm and with the caring of the animals. The holidays were always the most special time of year for Sloane and her family. Each holiday she would decorate the entire house and property “to the nines.” Friends and family would walk into her home and be in awe at how beautiful everything looked, smelled and felt. She would cook amazing dinners that her family and friends would share “dressed in their best” to celebrate and give thanks during prayer.
After the passing of her first husband Bill, Sloane packed up her 10 children and the Quarter Horse Farm and moved the entire crew to Sandbridge Beach. She created another beautiful home for her children filled with tons of animals and kids of all ages. She worked at the hospital during the day and private nursed at night, never seeming to sleep. All hands on deck during this period! Sloane taught her family to stick together and care for one and other. The family molded into a loving, supportive fighting Irish Team. Hard work was no stranger to this family with the example set by their mother.
She continued to raise her children on her own for 11 years until she met and married her second husband Mike, who was also widowed with 6 children. “Let the games begin,” Sloane would often state as this family navigated through the gauntlet of life. Mike was the athletic recreation director for the U.S. Navy and shared his love of sports with his new family. A passion Sloane and Mike shared was boxing, as they were both boxing judges, which came in handy from time to time on the home front. Mike was a great father and husband to Sloane and her children. He was a good natured man who just rolled with it when Sloane’s children’s friends called him “Mr. Cunningham.”
As the children matured and moved out of the home, Sloane and Mike purchased a cottage in Massanutten Resort, where they enjoyed the fall seasons and having the children up for skiing weekends. Her children and grandchildren still celebrate many holidays and skiing seasons in this home. Somehow Sloane managed to create an environment around this home that the deer, squirrels, and all other woodland creatures are attracted to. It may have something to do with all the birdhouses, and, of course, squirrel houses she built everywhere. Not to mention the grain trough and salt lick for the deer.
Sloane retired to Ocala, Florida, after the last of her children left the home, and Mike passed. Once again Sloane, found the perfect piece of property to surround herself with all her loving animals and create a beautiful home. She continued to go to local horse races, wrote a book of poems and attended dances at the Elks Club. She volunteered at the local church and was a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Sloane stayed in touch and close with her children as she enjoyed her well deserved peaceful retired life. She traveled back to Virginia from time to time for celebrations and holidays. While ballroom dancing, Sloane met Clay, who was also widowed and loved dancing as much as she, they have shared a loving, peaceful life together the past 10 years.
Sloane was a small lady with big blue eyes, a bright smile and fiery red hair. She was proud of her Irish Heritage and a devoted Catholic. She was full of spirit, courage, and incredible determination. She was compassionate, soft and loving. She was “tough as nails” and protective. She did not fear anything. All challenges were met “head on.” Her life meant joyfully and fully engaging and doing. She was not one to every sit on the sidelines. She was the strongest person we will ever know. All her loves were loved deeply.
She was loved deeply and will be deeply missed.
Left to cherish her loving memory are her children, Brandon, Shannon, Timmy, Shane, Patrick, Colleen and Kevin; grandchildren, Selena, Reagan, Summer, Shawna, Caitlin, Daniel, Dylan and Kody; sister, Diane; loving friend, Clay; and many other family members and countless friends.
A memorial Mass will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18, at Star of the Sea, 309 15th St., Virginia Beach.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that a donation be made to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Share online condolences with the family at Altmeyer Funeral Homes & Cremation.