Noel Cunningham died late Thursday at the age of 62. His death was unexpected and heartbreaking to many people.
He owned the Strings restaurant on 17th Avenue and started the Cunningham Foundation with his wife Tammy - helping starving children and families in Ethiopia.
He was also active in the Quarters for Kids charities and frequently fed the homeless in Denver at his restaurant.
"He loved people deeply and wanted to show that," Tammy Cunningham told 9NEWS on Friday. "We've opened libraries, built schools, built an orphanage."
Noel Cunningham spent most of his life doing for others and spreading the word that something very small can make a big difference.
"He said that a lot," Tammy Cunningham said. "'Anybody can pick up a penny and give it to someone who needs it.'"
It started 25 years ago when Noel Cunningham opened Strings. That's where he met his wife.
"He asked me out. I said no. He asked again, and we have been together ever since," she said.
In 2001, the couple visited Ethiopia.
"We discovered that there was a lot of poverty, much more than we have here," she said.
In 2003, the Cunningham Foundation was created, focusing on helping kids in Ethiopia. Through several programs including Quarters for Kids, Hope Bracelets and Heart Beads, they were able to raise more than $1 million to improve the lives of families in that country.
Noel Cunningham also did a lot for the youth here in Denver.
Just a few months ago, he did an interview with 9NEWS when helping Prudence, a resident of Zimbabwe in need of help.
"[He was] one of those people who wanted to share with everyone in so many ways," Pete Meersman, the CEO and president of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said.
Meersman knew Noel Cunningham for nearly 28 years and knows his passing will have a ripple effect.
"There are so many charities that he was involved in and I think honestly the nonprofit community suffered a great loss and it will be felt because there was no one like him," Meersman said.
Tammy Cunningham says her husband just gave from his heart and did what he could each and every day.
"There's no regret. I loved him to the best of all our abilities and he loved to the fullest," she said.
Doctors still don't know how Noel Cunningham died. His wife says he had lost 35 pounds over the last several months, but doctors couldn't find anything wrong.
He took a turn for the worse a few days ago and passed in his home Thursday night.
He leaves behind a wife, two daughters and a brother and sister.
A fund has been set up in Noel Cunningham's name at the AM First Bank.
Donate through Am First Bank
c/o Noel Cunningham Fund
5201 So. Yosemite St.
Greenwood Village 80111
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