Urban K. Cummings

Urban K. Cummings, 95, died after a few years of declining health but resisting death as long as he could. He had no regrets and still had joy in his heart when he left his earthly body. And when asked how he was doing he always replied, like a million bucks.

He was born in Oakland, CA in 1928, one of 7 children and first son to Jim and Marie Cummings. After his birth, his father sought out a Catholic priest to help him decide on an Irish name for his son. The priest said, “Kevin, Brian, Urban.” So his parents picked Urban (which is not an Irish name).

During WWII, Urban was having difficulty in high school and his father found out about an apprentice program at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Urban loved being an apprentice there and attended high school classes at the Shipyard (taught by teachers from SF Mission High). After graduating from Mission High in 1946, he enlisted in the Army, became a paratrooper and served in Occupied Japan.

After the Army, he enrolled and graduated from City College in SF. There he met, fell in love with and married Shirlee Mosher. They had 5 children. Urban’s career started at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and in the 1950’s he went to the South Pacific and witnessed several atom bombs being detonated.

In 1962 he was excited to be hired at the newly opened Stanford Linear Accelerator Center as a mechanical engineer. The family moved from Livermore to Palo Alto. He retired in 1984 from SLAC but went back as a consultant and then as a part-time employee.

After he and Shirlee divorced in the early 1970’s, Urban began an exploration of his personal life and took many self-improvement classes. He also started a business, Furry Feet, making sheepskin shoes in 1978. It was at an art & wine festival in San Anselmo in 1985 that he met his 2nd wife, Christine Clark, who had stopped at his booth to admire the sheepskin shoes. They married in 1989. Together they continued their Furry Feet business until 1998 when Urban decided that at 70 he was entitled to stop doing art & wine festivals. They continued to make Furry Feet but sold them through mail order and out of their house.

Urban was always a collector and so was Christine. In 1986 on their first trip to England, they decided to collect smoking memorabilia. That led to another love – collecting Ronson cigarette lighters. In 1988, Urban decided to write a book about that great American lighter, Ronson. He convinced the grandson and President (Louis V. Aronson II) of Ronson Corporation that he was serious about writing a book about Ronson lighters. Mr. Aronson finally agreed to provide Urban with information about the company. The book was published in 1993 and was well-received.

Urban and Chris traveled to a lot of antique shows (well before eBay existed) and it was at the Brimfield, Mass. flea market that he met another Ronson collector who told him about a lighter collector’s club, On The Lighter Side. That led to attending lighter conventions across the U.S. and then to Urban & Chris selling some of their lighters at antique, collectible shows and flea markets.

Urban was a man of many interests. He loved trees and became a volunteer at Canopy. He also volunteered as a handyman at Bay Area Cancer Connections after Chris was diagnosed with breast cancer.

His life was filled with love, curiosity, learning new things and sharing that knowledge with people, meeting new people, exploring new places. He loved his family but wasn’t perfect as his children can tell you. He did the best he could.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Christine, his 5 children, Mary Hope, Susan (Bruce Howard), Liann, Karen, Michael (Maria). He also is survived by 4 grandsons, Vonn Sumner, Christopher Wells, Evan Wells and Tait Howard and 4 great-grandchildren. He leaves behind his remaining sister, Claire Cummings. He also is survived by many nieces, nephews and a great many good friends. And, lastly, he leaves behind his friend and nurse who cared for him in the last year of his life, Maria Moorehead. Without her loving care Urban would have been unable to stay in his home.

He was predeceased by his parents, 4 of his sisters, 1 brother and his grandson, Morgen Cummings Jacobs who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

At his request there will not be a memorial service. Please feel free to donate to a charity of your choice or to Urban’s favorite charities – Canopy, 3921 E. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto 94303, Bay Area Cancer Connections, 1511 S. Claremont Street, San Mateo, CA 94402.


  1. Urban was a one of a kind gentleman and was loved by so many. I was lucky enough to meet Chris and Urban in Vancouver in 1998 and we have remained good friends.
    Chris, he loved you so much and was blessed to have you by his side.
    Rest in Peace, dear Urban.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of Urban. I had the privilege of talking with him several times over the phone. A truly great person!
    Christine and friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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