In Memoriam: Thomas Whitely Cullinan (1970-2023)

In Memoriam: Thomas Whitely Cullinan (1970-2023)

“Changing the Way We Look at Life”: Celebrating the Optimistic Legacy of Thomas Whitely Cullinan

Community Service Alliance is in mourning following the passing of one of its most beloved friends, Thomas Whitely Cullinan. Born on May 30, 1970, Tom, as he was affectionately known, left an indelible mark on CSA, his community and the hearts of all who knew him. He passed away on November 30, 2023, leaving behind his loving wife, Joanna May (Hunkins), and a legacy of art, empathy, and laughter.

Early Life and Passion for Theatre
Raised in Cleveland Heights, Tom’s childhood was steeped in the arts. The son of a playwright and an art critic, he discovered his love for theatre early, influenced by his environment and his parents’ passions. His journey in theatre began at the University School, where he shone as the Captain of the Pinafore in middle school. This passion continued to burn brightly as he was cast in “Kids in the Dark,” a Cleveland Play House production depicting teenage life in the 80s. Tom’s educational path led him to Macalaster College, where his love for theatre deepened and where he formed bonds with lifelong friends.

A Flourishing Theatrical Career
Tom’s professional life was a rich tapestry of creativity and dedication to the arts. He excelled as an actor, director, designer, and educator, touching many lives with his talent and wisdom. From Chicago to the Twin Cities, he honed his skills in improvisation and puppetry before returning to Cleveland. In his hometown, Tom left his mark on multiple stages, including the Dobama Theatre and Cleveland Public Theatre. He was a key figure in the Bad Epitaph Theatre Company, remembered especially for his portrayal of Hamlet. His dedication to fostering new talent shone through in his role as an instructor at the Houde School of Acting, where he inspired many with his teachings on Shakespeare and improv.

Service and Sobriety
At 40, Tom took a new direction, dedicating himself to service and the recovery community.  He was a resident at CSA’s Procop House where he began his personal recovery and developed a commitment to helping men transition out of homelessness and addiction. He joined the CSA Board of Directors, and when the agency planned to expand its job assistance program, Tom stepped into the role of employment development coordinator to lead that effort.  On average, Tom helped place 60-65 CSA residents into employment opportunities each year and, as importantly, used those encounters to share his own journey of sober living and inspiring many facing similar challenges.

A Life Filled with Love and Laughter
Tom’s life was a testament to the power of love and joy. His marriage to Joanna was a beautiful partnership filled with travel, shared interests, and laughter. Their relationship, brimming with love and friendship, was an inspiration to all who knew them. Tom’s zest for life was evident in everything he did, from enjoying simple pleasures like a trip to the grocery store to finding joy in hobbies such as golf and cooking.

Remembering Tom
Tom Whitely Cullinan will be remembered not just for his achievements but for the way he touched lives. His optimism, embodied in his belief that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” transformed the lives of those around him. Services will be held after the New Year, and contributions in his memory can be made to CSA by simply following this link.

Tom’s departure leaves a void in the hearts of his family, friends, CSA, and the greater Cleveland community. His legacy, however, remains a beacon of hope, creativity, and compassion. His life reminds us to cherish every moment, to embrace our passions, and to spread love and laughter wherever we go.

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