John Cuneo, Chicago Writer and Producer, Dead at 58

When his mother was diagnosed with dementia, John Cuneo gave it all up and moved from California to a converted apartment upstairs from his childhood home in Norwood Park.

Amid his care, he retained his gift for seeing the humor and human connection in almost everything.

One day he walked into his hospital room with his glasses on.

She said, ‘Oh, you look like my son Johnny.’ »

But when Mr. Cuneo took off the glasses, his mother immediately recognized that the visitor was her son. He told friends it made him feel a lot like Superman.

“He’d put his glasses on and he’d be like Clark Kent, and nobody would recognize him,” said one such friend, Chuck Kawal, “so he’d take his glasses off and he was Superman.”

Family and friends remember Mr. Cuneo, 58, as creative, caring and always up for a joke. He died early last month at the Lutheran General Hospital after a brief illness, according to his wife, Andi Stolle.

He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism and began his career as a reporter at the City News Bureau in Chicago, then moved to California and became a reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press.

Yvette Shields worked with Mr. Cuneo at the City News Bureau. They met in the summer of 1988, when Mr. Cuneo, who had a few months on her, trained her on what questions to ask and what information to gather to appease their strict editors and rewrite desk.

“John scoffed at how it was like a blind man leading a blind man while coaching me, but I appreciated his calm, steady guidance, pointed observations and humor,” Shields said.

“He was always creative,” his wife said. “That’s why he was so good at interviewing people, because he could understand something right away. If people needed something solved, he could find it in minutes.

Later, he founded his own company in Los Angeles, John Cuneo Productions, creating videos for clients such as the UC Davis MIND Institute, which studies neurodevelopmental disorders.

From 2005 to 2019, he worked as a screenwriter, producer and director for Punch Films. In 2011, his company won a regional Emmy for a public service announcement for the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State on the dangers of texting while driving.

Most recently, he worked as a writer and producer at WGN America.

Mr. Cuneo loved his Shih Tzu, Bodacious. During their walks around the neighborhood, he got to know the neighbors — and Bodacious learned which ones kept dog treats in their pockets.

“He really was just a very wonderful human being,” his wife said.

Mr. Cuneo formed a rock band with friends. After their freshman year of college, the band, called Last Generation, played on an East Coast tour, opening for The Hooters.

“We were 17, 18 year old kids and we rented an RV and played a few shows down East. … John was the one who had a plan and thought, ‘We’re going to be rock stars,’ said Kawal, who was part of the band.

John Cuneo was a skilled amateur drummer, according to his friends and family.

He had “flash and style,” Kawal said. “He was very lively as a drummer. I think that’s what drew attention to the band. He was a little guy. You would see it behind the swaying drums.

“Throughout our career, John and I have loved getting together and watching old movies and heckling them,” longtime friend Mike Carey said. “And that’s how he developed a lot of comedy bits that he used when he was writing his own material, when he had his own business doing commercials and when he was producing little comedy shorts. “

He once told Carey that “The Godfather” was a “perfect movie.” But he also appreciated those who were, so to speak, less than perfect.

The friends got together every Halloween and watched the 1943 B-movie ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,’ Carey said, ‘not because it’s very good – because it’s absolutely ridiculous. Thrilled watching all the mistakes, and it’s just a lovely movie.

“You couldn’t be around John without having a smile, and he loved telling a good story,” Carey said. “He always found what was funny in the story. … Even when he was sick, he cracked up the nurses in the hospital room.

Services took place.

Corina C. Butler