David S. Cumming Jr. ’49, Chapter Eternal

John Sayers ‘81 October 2, 2014 Alumni News, Graduate Council

One of the great elder lions of Phi Chapter, David S. “Dave” Cumming Jr. ’49, passed away suddenly on Sept. 27 at age 88. He left a big loving family and a heap of dear friends, including many Bethanians and Phi Taus from the great post-WWII period and afterwards.

His best friend was Dale Laughner ’51, whose son Mike ’79 tells the story:

Dave Cumming and his family was so much important part of my family, which you know is part of Phi Kappa Tau. … Dave Cumming was my dad’s best friend, roommate, and best man at my dad’s wedding. Remarkable life story: Dave’s late wife Katherine “Kitty” was a cheerleader and good friend of my late mom at Crafton High School in Pittsburgh. Each later married the two best friends who had been at Bethany! You couldn’t script that for a movie.

“Our families were close growing up and we visited each other and we played together with his two daughters and even vacationed some together.

“Dave had some tragedy in his life as just over 20 years ago he awoke on Christmas morn to find that his wife had passed away in her sleep from a sudden heart attack. I shall never ever forget that phone call on Christmas morn to my folk’s house in Beaver Falls as we had all gathered for Christmas and were opening presents. After the shock my dad immediately got dressed and made the long drive in snowy weather to be with his friend all day that Christmas Day, until he returned late that night. …

“She and Dave were a very happy couple and just fun to be around. … After his wife’s death, Dave sold his house to live in a one bedroom apartment, and found friendship and companionship at a tavern called “The Saloon” near where he lived. He became such a fixture that the place named a “fixture” for him: A barstool with a plaque, and a sandwich named the “Mr. C”!

“After that ownership changed, he found a new place called “Alexions”, which also made a plaque for him. Today that business is closed for lunch, as that entire staff is attending his funeral. How about that?

“More: As I found out from his daughter, Dave had pledged a fraternity at Penn (for which he had no real involvement) while on a Navy ROTC program during the war, so he was for decades a “social” member of PKT (nickname: “The Old Man”). But through the efforts of Tom Skena, Dave was finally able to become a full brother decades later. …

“Dave, my dad, and the brothers of the late 1940s all became lifelong friends after college, and partied hard together in and around Pittsburgh during the 1950s. Worked hard and played hard. The stories are legendary and I have heard many of them. But of course they all eventually settled down, attended each other’s weddings, and kept their friendship true as they raised families. Then as their children grew up is when we got to know the icons of that era as they attended our alumni gatherings.

“Thank you all for allowing me to share this with you, as I would rather that history be known. Today perhaps a quiet day for our brother David Cumming in Chapter Eternal.”

Dave’s grandson (and Phi Grad Council Treasurer) Scott Berg ’05 recommended that a “proper vigil would be to go to your local bar, order the cheapest domestic brew they have on tap and talk with anyone that will listen.” Hear hear.

You can read Dave’s obituary and view the guest book here.