Those who knew fallen state police Trooper David Cunniff recalled him Wednesday as someone dedicated to his family and his faith.
He was someone who did anything for his children, ages 4 and 6, one of whom suffers from a rare genetic muscle disease.
He was married to his teenage sweetheart. He played in the church band.
He was also a veteran of nine years with the New York State Police.
“He was a wonderful person,” John Nuzback said Wednesday. “What you see is what you got with him.”
Nuzback had known Cunniff for a decade. Nuzback’s son was Cunniff’s brother-in-law. Nuzback also works in emergency services, serving as Schenectady County’s fire and EMS coordinator.
Nuzback last saw Cunniff last Saturday at a family gathering. What he remembered was Cunniff joking with the children there, making them laugh with his imitation of Donald Duck.
On Wednesday, family, friends and co-workers of Cunniff prepared to lay him to rest.
Cunniff, 35, of Duanesburg, died Tuesday of injuries suffered when a tractor-trailer slammed into his trooper car on the Thruway during a traffic stop in Amsterdam on Monday night.
The investigation into the accident is continuing.
He leaves behind his wife, Amy, sons, Caleb, 6, and Zachary, 4, along with countless friends and family.
Both the calling hours and the funeral services have been scheduled for the family’s church, Grace Fellowship, 20 Delatour Road, Watervliet.
Calling hours are set for today, from 3 to 8 p.m. His funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.
Cunniff most recently served with Troop T, which patrols the Thruway. He also served with other troops, including the Executive Services Detail at the New York State Capitol, the group that protects the governor.
His son Caleb, now 6, suffers from a disease called spinal muscular atrophy, SMA. It’s an incurable disease that causes loss of muscle function and requires use of a wheelchair. Caleb got an electric one in 2011, donated by Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association stepped in to help raise money for other expenses, including handicapped-accessible devices for the Cunniffs’ home and a van. The family also received support from their church, Grace Fellowship.
It was through Grace Fellowship that Jeff Stasko got to know Cunniff and his family.
Stasko remembered bonding with Cunniff as a fellow father. Both had two young children.
“Dave was very dedicated to being the best dad he could possibly be,” Stasko recalled Wednesday.
And Cunniff did anything for his children.
As the family learned more about Caleb’s disease, they became more involved in helping fight it, raising money to do so. Stasko recalled Cunniff going to one conference in Florida and how excited he was after he learned about all the developments that had been made.
“He worked hard to have his son live as regular and as normal a life as possible,” Stasko said. “They played video games. They hung out. They were just good buddies.”
The final details of Cunniff’s services were being worked out Wednesday, but they’re expected to draw officers from around the region and beyond.
Grace Fellowship normal seats up to 1,100 people, with room for a couple hundred more, said Stasko, who is also a spokesman for the church.
The services are also expected to be streamed online at GraceFellowship.com.
State police have grief counselors available for any trooper who needs to talk, spokesman Trooper Jason Jones said.
“He was very, very well-liked by everyone,” Jones said.
Cunniff was a 2004 graduate of the New York State Police Academy. He was born in Schenectady and attended Schenectady Christian School. He was home-schooled during high school and later graduated from Bryant & Stratton Business Entrepreneurship Program, according to his obituary.
The Niskayuna Police Department is among the many police departments sending contingents to the services.
Cunniff’s wife, Amy, is the daughter of Niskayuna police Detective Paul Hobson.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Trooper Cunniff’s family, the Hobson family and also the entire state police,” Niskayuna Police Chief John Lubrant said Wednesday.
Tributes also came in from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Gov. George Pataki. The first part of Cunniff’s Executive Service Detail work was at the end of Pataki’s time as governor.
Cuomo ordered flags to be flown at half-staff today at all state government buildings in honor of Cunniff. Both Cuomo and Pataki issued statements of condolence.
“He was a very fine young man,” said state Sen. Hugh Farley, who knew Cunniff. “It’s such a terrible tragedy.”
According to his obituary, memorial contributions can be made to Families of SMA, 925 Busse Road, Elk Grove Village, Ill. 60007, or www.curesma.org in memory of David W. Cunniff.