July 20, 1952 - March 7, 2022
Forever a traveler, Robert Reynolds Cushing, Jr., of Hampton, New Hampshire, took yet one more journey on March 7, 2022, at age 69. Renny was born on July 20, 1952, to Robert and Marie (Mulcahy) Cushing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His first memory was of picking up his twin brothers at the hospital, and his family - his ohana - was at the center of his life ever since. His sense of justice and righteous anger at senseless violence began with his opposition to the Vietnam War. His protests brought him to marches on D.C. and to advocate at age 15 for the voting age to be lowered on the floor of the New Hampshire State House - a place that would become his home away from beloved lifelong home on Winnacunnet Road. He loved chunky peanut butter, cheddar cheese, and salami on an English muffin, leaving half an apple to brown in the car cup holder, and was “tuck-challenged” when it came to doing up all the buttons of his shirt. He wore t-shirts down to the threads rather than throw away a gift, and had a Yankee approach to cultivating piles of good scrap. He began a life of wicked good trouble with a handwritten note from his mom giving him permission to hop freight trains and hitchhike across the country. He picked grapes in Salinas, mined gold in Ontario, collected trash in Atlanta, dug clams in the Hampton Harbor, saw all fifty states by his fiftieth birthday, and could not remember much from Woodstock ‘69. In his junior year, he was suspended from Winnacunnet High School for growing his sideburns out too long for the dress code. He sued the school to be reinstated - marking the first time Renny teamed up with the ACLU, but certainly not the last. With a senior year of football on the line, Renny reluctantly trimmed the sideburns, led the team to the state championship, and returned fifty-one years later to give a commencement speech. He would be the first to tell you he was not a morning person, preferring instead la madrugada - the time after midnight before the sun rises when everything is still and your best thinking can be done - and la sobremesa - the time after a meal is finished when everyone is still gathered around the table, enjoying laughter and good company. He learned this Spanish working in the tobacco fields of Mexico, reading Neruda and sharing stories of oppression and hope that convinced him to return home, where he thought bringing a people’s revolution to New Hampshire might take a few years and then he could return to the life of a traveler. Turns out it took a bit longer than expected. It started with supporting progressive political candidates as they visited the Granite State - working in the trenches for Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern progressed to being the state co-chair for Jesse Jackson and Bernie Sanders. It was at the presidential primary rally for Fred Harris that he met Kristie Conrad, first his comrade, and then his wife of more than 33 years. Renny’s revolutionary spirit found its home in cofounding the Clamshell Alliance, the first grassroots organization dedicated to nonviolent direct action in opposition to nuclear power. His fight against the Seabrook Atomic Power Plant reflected his love of the natural seacoast and his New Hampshire sense of righteousness - the use of eminent domain to overturn the democratic will of the people had to be opposed. Fortified alongside his brother- and sisterhood of clams, Renny was one of the first protestors arrested - first as one of 18, then as one of 180, then as one of 1,414 in one of the largest mass arrests in American history. His ohana expanded from Cushings and Clams to include those who had survived the murder of a loved one. He deeply believed that if we as a people let those who kill make us into killers, then evil triumphs - and we all lose. Taking another life would not heal the loss of his father or brother-in-law. It would not honor the lives lost for another family to be victimized by state-sanctioned murder. His crusade against the death penalty took him on advocacy works across the world, but for Renny even the road less traveled led back to New Hampshire, where after thirty years of impassioned speeches and strategic politicking across both parties, the state death penalty was abolished. As a state representative, Renny put the people first. He advocated for workers by passing the state’s whistleblower protection act and fighting repressive right to work legislation. He was a proud card-carrying union member, organizer, and supporter of the state’s firefighter, teacher, and municipal employee unions. He was at the forefront of relocating New Hampshire’s secure psychiatric unit so vital mental health care can be provided without criminalization. Funding construction to revitalize the Hampton Beach boardwalk, increasing resources for survivors of domestic violence, decriminalizing marijuana - if it meant a better life for New Hampshire families, Renny was there. With his cancer diagnosis, Renny wanted to continue serving, so he adopted a new motto: “Dying While Legislating” (or DWL as his custom belt buckle proclaimed). Serving as the Democratic Leader of the House brought him great pride. Not in the title - he cared more about the work he got done - but in his ability to empower young progressives and make space at the table for the diverse voices who have always advocated for their communities but were shut out of the halls of power. But of all the titles he held through the years, the one he was most proud of was Papa. He adored indulging his three daughters in ticklish pedicures, countless dance parties, weekend trips playgrounding that had to end with ice cream, and reality television marathons when the world felt too hard to handle. In turn, his daughters indulged his countless piles of paper, explosions of crumbs whenever he made breakfast, weekly dinners of cold pizza, fried Spam, or Welsh rarebit, and surprise crashings on their couches when his travels brought him around unannounced but always welcome. A self-described aging romantic, he married dozens of couples in wedding ceremonies as a Justice of the Peace, scribbled countless love letters in nearly indecipherable chicken scratch, and tattooed his mom’s nickname in a heart on his arm. He baked the best Irish soda bread while reciting W.B. Yeats, and ached for the smell of burning peat and Irish rain. He never met a stranger he couldn’t turn into a friend, and never met a “No Trespassing” sign he couldn’t turn into an invitation for mischief. He argued pro se and won a case before the New Hampshire Supreme Court and drank Pabst at the Legion Hall, met with the Pope to advocate for ending the juvenile death penalty and snagged first place in the Nashville Swine Ball beauty pageant. He was brilliant, goofy, melancholy, righteous, fanciful, and profound. Renny’s memory will forever be a blessing for his wife, Kristie Conrad, and their three daughters - Marie Cushing and husband Austin Beckford; Elizabeth Cushing; and Grace Cushing. Renny is reunited for a walk along the shores of Hampton Beach with his beloved father Robert and mother Marie; brother Michael; and brother-in-law Stephen McRedmond, cherished husband of brother Matthew. Renny is lovingly remembered by his seven surviving siblings: Giovanna Hurley and husband Jim Fortin; Matthew Cushing; Kevin Cushing and wife Kathleen (Hanson); Marynia Page and husband Richard; Christine Rockefeller and husband Dale; and Timothy Cushing and wife Janet (Batchelder). He was an adored Uncle Papa to his beloved niblings: Eleanor Fulmer and husband Ronald; Rose Murray and husband John; Isaac Cushing and wife Julia (Barkley); Kate Fortin and husband Eduardo Thomas Perez del Postigo; Danielle Cushing; James Fortin and fiancée Augusta Nissy; Abigail Rockefeller; Christine Page and wife Uannya; Kathryn Rockefeller; Alexander Cushing; Shannon Page; Kasey Cushing; and Hillary Cushing. His hope to make the world a better place lives on in his eleven grandniblings: Katie Fulmer, Caleb Cushing, Ronald “Trey” Fulmer III, Pluto Cushing, Jesse Murray, Corrine Murray, Riley Fulmer, Avery Fulmer, Julian Cushing, Ellie Fulmer, and Fernando Thomas Fortin. The family would like to thank the tireless efforts of Dr. Xin Gao and the oncology team, as well as the wonderful, compassionate nursing and support staff at Massachusettes General Hospital. There are no words to describe the gratitude held for the support from Rockingham VNA and Hospice. Memorial services will be held for family and friends at the Rivermill at Dover Landing 2 Washington Street, Dover, NH from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. Attendees will be required to wear masks. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that you pour yourself a glass of good bourbon or cheap tequila and write a letter to someone you love. Memorial gifts can be made in Renny’s name to Black Lives Matter Seacoast or 350NH. And since the only person who could do justice to the story of Renny Cushing was the man himself, we will let him have the last word. In 1986, Renny wrote in his biography for the first of his nine terms as New Hampshire State Representative that his priorities were “family & friends - their dignity, sacrifice and labor. Simple dreams for a better life in N.H. Effectiveness without losing principles or sense of humor.” Job well done. Ohana.
Forever a traveler, Robert Reynolds Cushing, Jr., of Hampton, New Hampshire, took yet one more journey on March 7, 2022, at age 69. Renny was born on July 20, 1952, to Robert and Marie (Mulcahy) Cushing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His first... View Obituary & Service Information
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