Broken Arrow sculptor, Army veteran J. David Nunneley passes


Sculptor, businessman, outdoorsman and family man J. David Nunneley of Broken Arrow passed away on Feb. 5 surrounded by love from family and friends, his family announced.

Nunneley, 86, a Tulsa native who had his studio in the Rose District in Broken Arrow, left his legacy and beautiful sculptures for many to admire.

The unveiling of David’s final bronze sculpture honoring Korean War Veterans will occur on March 21 at 1 p.m. at Veteran’s Park. 1111 S. Main St in Broken Arrow. A celebration of David Nunneley’s life and works will be held at his studio at 115 E. Dallas St. in the Rose District on Tuesday, March 21st, following the unveiling. A private family service will be held at Floral Haven Funeral Home.

Joel David Nunneley was born in Tulsa on May 20th, 1936, to Wilbur R. “Sam” Nunneley and Lessye Lee “Pat” Patterson Nunneley.

David and his brothers grew up in Tulsa, where he graduated from Will Rogers High School, class of 1954. At Will Rogers H.S., he met his future wife and classmate, Marilyn S. Shields. He and Marilyn embarked on a 66-year adventure that included three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. While David had many businesses, art and outdoor pursuits, his family was the foundation for all he accomplished.

Upon graduation from WRHS, David enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in post-war Germany for two years before studying Art at the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa University. He received advanced training in sculpture at the Loveland Academy of Art in Colorado and the Scottsdale Academy of Art in Arizona.

He never claimed retirement as he quickly pursued his art career. His early career started as an illustrator for a scientific instrument company, and he soon started his own instrument company with his good friend Jack Alexander and eventually a gas compressor manufacturing firm.

During this time, he was granted five U.S. patents for various oil and gas-related products he had engineered and drafted. He eventually sold his company, Wellhead Compressor Packagers, to a Pennsylvania utility company. David was both Vice President of Sales and Product Development for Frank W. Murphy for many years, where he made many business friends.

He founded a dry-cleaning chain with his son Bryan. Other business pursuits included pharmaceuticals, banking, pizza parlors, fishing lures, fishing tubes and exercise equipment. David was never short on creativity and business ideas. His ideas were always ambitiously pursued and with never a doubt or obstacle in his way.

Despite his reputation as a business leader, David considered becoming a successful sculptor his most gratifying and courageous pursuit. His bronze works can be seen around the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Some of his more notable works are at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where at the entrance is “Hannibal,” the mule, their mascot, with a cadet. His work there also includes Army Heisman trophy winners and college hall-of-fame coach Red Blaik. Other significant works David produced are General Patrick Cleburne in Helena, AR and the Texas Marine Medal of Honor statue in The Woodlands, TX.

Many of David’s finest works are in Oklahoma. Sequoyah at Gilcrease Museum, The PFC Albert E. Schwab statue at Tulsa International Airport, the American Bald Eagle at Indian Nations Council of Boy Scouts of America, The World Globe and Rotary Centennial sculptures at Williams Center Green, Romeo & Juliet statue at The Tulsa Ballet, Washington Irving and the Headless Horseman in Bixby, Pioneer Family and Rooster with an attitude, and others near his studio in Broken Arrow’s Rose District.

David and Marilyn Nunneley were very connected to Will Rogers High School and the life-long friends they met during these years. In 2016, David was inducted into the Will Rogers High School Community Foundation Hall of Fame, which meant a lot to him, receiving such recognition from many class members. It was also his opportunity to honor his wife and fellow classmate, to whom he gave all credit for his success in life. Their wonderful journey together that took them to so many places started at Will Rogers and was a big part of their ride.

Dave’s love for the outdoors was born in Oklahoma creeks and ponds with a cheap BB gun or fishing pole in hand. He always had a brother, cousin, or friend in tow as they romped around Tulsa. The thrill of fishing and hunting was in his veins, and this passion continues with his children and grandchildren.

He, along with his best fishing and hunting friend, Ray Biery, took their children and grandchildren on many trips to Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Montana, Kansas, Oregon, Colorado, Arkansas, and Belize. One of his favorite trips was fishing the Madison River with the France Family and staying at Rainbow Valley Lodge in Ennis, MT.

His love of art and the outdoors were blended in many of his bronze works that show the great outdoors. Many friends and art collectors have bronze bird dogs, native Americans, fly-fishing, pheasant hunting and equestrian activities.

His outdoor travels inspired much of his creative work. He wondered aloud, “how could one not believe in God” as he floated through and admired a sunset-lit canyon on the Smith River in Montana

An accounting of his life must include his many hobbies, but not limited to painting, sculpting, NY Times Daily Crossword puzzle, beer making, bass fishing in his Ranger boat, fly-fishing, bridge, Scrabble, chasing critters at Hickory Ridge Ranch, sailing, training bird dogs, quail and pheasant hunting, tennis, golf, gardening, baking pies, harmonica playing, competitive BBQ, enjoying good Scotch, cigars, storytelling and reading history books.

J. David Nunneley lived life to the fullest and did so until he cast his last fly and bronze. He was quite proud of his family and those preceding him: His parents Sam and Pat Nunneley, “Aunt Golda” Josephine Nunneley, his brothers Ronnie, Robert and Ray Nunneley, brother-in-law Stanley K. Shields MD, Aunt Bunny and Uncle Arthur Patterson DO and his many Nunneley cousins.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marilyn S. Shields Nunneley; Children: Joel Alan Nunneley (Lindsay) of Fayetteville, AR. Bryan David Nunneley (Angie) of Bixby, OK, and Shannon Sue Nunneley-Grimshaw (Eric) of Tulsa. His grandchildren: Joel Davis Nunneley, Golda Grace Nunneley, Greta Faith Nunneley, Alexandra Michelle Nunneley, Marshall David Nunneley, Paige Pruitt (Alex) and great-granddaughter, Emma Grace Pruitt. Not to be forgotten is his beloved dog, Mr. Whipple.

Donations can be made in David’s name to honor our nation’s servicemen, servicewomen, and military families at

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