Schenectady County

Cushing mourned as local icon

A Niskayuna native whose influence in the community is still felt will be remembered in a funeral Mo

A Niskayuna native whose influence in the community is still felt will be remembered in a funeral Monday at Siena College, where he was married.

James E. Cushing, a former Schenectady County businessman and donor to many causes, died June 17 at the age of 90.

Cushing married famed actress Maureen O’Sullivan in 1983 at the St. Mary of the Angel Chapel at Siena College, which also hosted her funeral at her request in 1998.

O’Sullivan, mother of actress Mia Farrow, starred in numerous films during her career and played the role of “Jane” alongside Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan” in the 1930s.

Cushing built his wealth as owner of the Cushing Stone Co., which was purchased and headquartered in the former Hough Hotel in downtown Schenectady by his father, James E. Cushing Sr.

His generosity with his wealth to causes such as medicine and education are still evident today.

“Mr. Cushing was a kind, thoughtful and extraordinarily generous person who had a significant impact on the quality of health care in our community, an impact that will be felt for generations to come,” Suzann Smart, executive director of The Foundation at Ellis Medicine, said in a statement via email.

His name was memorialized on a wing — the Cushing Center — at the former St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady, now the Ellis Health Center. And his donations are responsible for more than 200 physicians who graduated from the hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program, its director, Dr. Gary Dunkerley, said Friday.

“Without his support, we really wouldn’t have been able to build the state-of-the-art family medicine center that we have now,” Dunkerley said. “His legacy is those 250 graduates of our program that he helped support.”

Cushing, who lived part time on Union Street in Niskayuna and also in Arizona, would always bring his wife to doctor’s appointments, Dunkerley said.

“He was just so caring of her,” he said.

Dunkerley said O’Sullivan’s son, Matthew Farrow, was an artist with a studio in New Hampshire, and Cushing, who was involved in the arts, met O’Sullivan there.

Cushing was the first person chosen to serve on the Siena College Board of Trustees by the Rev. Hugh Hines, who served as president of the college from 1976-89. His name is now part of the largest endowed scholarship at the college — the Maureen O’Sullivan Cushing Scholarship — according to college spokesman Jim Eaton.

“He was very respected as a Schenectady businessman and for his intelligence and his honesty,” said Hines, who became friends with Cushing and his family. “He was an excellent board member; he would always speak his piece and give you great advice.”

Cushing raised the children of his sister and brother-in-law, who died young, Hines said, preparing him for when he married O’Sullivan and took on the role of parent in that family.

“He said, ‘This is not new for me,’ ” Hines said.

Hines, who officiated Cushing and O’Sullivan’s wedding and later O’Sullivan’s funeral, said it will be an honor for him to conduct Cushing’s funeral. Planning, Hines said, was one of Cushing’s capabilities, something O’Sullivan mentioned in jest.

“[O’Sullivan] said `He’s a great planner, he even has our funerals planned,’ ” Hines said. “He had a good long life, and he enjoyed life, too. He was watching movies right up to the end.”

Cushing’s father played a role in Schenectady politics, serving as chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Party and twice serving as a New York delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply