Now that we are approaching the end of 2017, we often take time to look back at the year and reflect. Remember. There were so many ‘every.damn.day’ events that confronted us this year that many of us are numbed and emotionally exhausted—I know I am. Whether it was the political turmoil, threats of nuclear war, mass murder, terrorism, wild fires—just all of it—it has been heart-wrenching and emotionally exhausting.
We don’t often have a direct personal connection to difficult national events and tragedies; we just experience them as really awful days. But one day last summer affected all of us in the astrological community here in Portland, nationally and internationally. It was July 5th, when we all learned that our beloved Donna Cunningham had passed away on her 75th birthday. When I heard, I sat silently for a moment trying to wrap my head around it. It was hard for me to imagine she was gone. I got up and went to my library and started pulling out Donna’s books. Just looking at them brought back so many good memories of the last thirty years I had known her. I knew Donna personally and worked with her at different times over a thirty year period, co-teaching workshops in Seattle, Port Townsend and Portland, collaborating on a chapter in one of her books, helping her do some research on others or just sitting on the phone gabbing when she needed a moment away from her writing and practice. The last time I saw her was a couple years ago when Christopher Renstrom came to town. She called me and asked if I could pick her up and take her to his lecture. The three of us spent some quality time together that day and, although I talked with her a couple of times on the phone after that, we had no occasion to get together--and then she was gone.
I don’t need to tell you how prolific a writer she was—most of you have her books. I don’t need to say what a nurturing, lunar personality she was—most of you have experienced her Great Mother energy and gentle nature. I don’t need to say what a gifted and talented astrologer she was—most of you have gleaned that from her writings, lectures and workshops. But maybe I do need to remind everyone how much she loved her fans, supporters and her community, both locally and internationally.
Donna was born July 5, 1942 at 07:40am in Onawa, Iowa. She graduated from Grinnell College in 1964 and received a Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University in New York in 1967. She began her astrological studies in 1968 and started her own practice in the early 1970s. She told me her greatest inspiration and teacher was Richard Idemon, whose tragic death ultimately prompted her to create ‘The Astrologers’ Memorial Webpage’, a virtual museum and memorial to astrologers who have passed on. It was also there that she created a virtual ‘Quilt’ in memorial to the gay astrologers who died during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Donna was active at one time or another in the AFA, NCGR, AFAN, and the OAA. She often wrote for The Mountain Astrologer and Dell Horoscope, and of course published many, many books that have become important standards for students and practitioners of astrology. She was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award by Professional Astrologers Incorporated and the prestigious Regulus Award at UAC for her contributions to Astrological theory. Donna Cunningham was and will remain one of the most important astrologers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and we here in Portland had the pleasure and good fortune to have her among us as teacher, colleague and friend. She will be forever loved and forever missed, but never forgotten.