Cover photo for Thomas Whitely Cullinan's Obituary
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Thomas Whitely Cullinan

May 30, 1970 — November 30, 2023

Cleveland Heights

Thomas Whitely Cullinan

Thomas Whitely Cullinan of Cleveland Heights.

May 30, 1970-November 30, 2023.

Survived by his wife Joanna May (Hunkins).

Preceded in death by his mother Helen B. Cullinan and father Thomas P. Cullinan.

Beloved son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, and dog dad. He was a friend and mentor to many.

Memorial Services will be held Monday, January 22nd, 2024 at 11am in Plymouth Church, United Church of Christ , 2860 Coventry Rd., (at Weymouth Rd.), Shaker Heights, OH, 44120.

Contributions can be made in Tom’s name to Community Service Alliance ( or The Friends of Cain Park (

Tom was an optimist who never met a stranger. Growing up in Cleveland Heights, he played hockey and loved skiing, but Tom found his true passion for theatre at an early age. The son of a playwright and art critic, Tom was not only drawn, but encouraged to be at home on the stage. He attended University School, where in middle school he was the Captain of the Pinafore. In high school, Tom was selected by the Cleveland Play House to be in the cast of Kids in the Dark, a show depicting teenage life in the 80’s. He went on to study theatre at Macalaster College, where he would also meet several of his lifelong friends.

Tom spent the first half of his career in the theatre as an actor, director, designer, and educator. Following college, he worked in Chicago and the twin cities, focusing primarily on improvisation and puppetry. After relocating home to Cleveland, Tom spent several years as a performer and coordinator with Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre. He also served as production manager at Cain Park and Cuyahoga Community College. Tom could be seen on local stages throughout Cleveland including Dobama Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, Beck Center, and Bodwin Theatre Company. He was a founder of Bad Epitaph Theatre Company, where he most notably played the title role in Hamlet. More recently, Tom became an instructor at the Houde School of Acting where he taught Shakespeare and improv, inspiring many to follow their own passion for theatre. He took tremendous pride in founding and coaching the school’s improv troupe, The Houde Rats.

Tom took a new path in life at age 40, devoting his efforts to service, particularly in the recovery community. He worked as the employment counselor for Community Service Alliance, a non-profit organization committed to transforming the lives of men transitioning out of homelessness and addiction. Following his own liver transplant in 2014, Tom volunteered for the Cleveland Clinic regularly to speak with pre-transplant patients about the values of sober living. He was often quoted as saying, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” a mantra he believed whole-heartedly in throughout his later years.

The greatest joy in Tom’s life came from his relationship with his wife, Joanna. With over 30 years of history together, the two were best friends and true soul mates. They loved traveling the world just as much as watching a Browns game on the couch with their dog, Emma. A simple trip to the grocery store could easily be considered a “date night,” and they were quick to find any excuse to dance in the kitchen. Most of all, they laughed. Their life together overflowed with laughter and love.

Things Tom loved: bad jokes, a good steak, Plymouth Church, science fiction, Cleveland sports, Lincoln Boulevard, golf, cigars, camping, Coca Cola, teaching, Home Depot, Hawaiian shirts, snow, the zoo, Irish music, blackjack, the beach, roller coasters, cooking, naps, a wood-burning fire, and the people in his life.

Past Services

Memorial Service

Monday, January 22, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights

2860 Coventry Rd, Shaker Heights, OH 44120

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