- Chapter 1. The Childhood Years
- Chapter 2. First comes love, then comes marriage,
then comes Arno with a baby carriage.
- Chapter 3. Ah, Bavaria
- Chapter 4. Back in the US of A
- Chapter 5. Finding Jesus
- Chapter 6. Have you heard the good news?
- Chapter 7. Columbia, Missouri
- Chapter 8. Giving it all up and heading south again
- Chapter 9. Back to Missouri
- Chapter 10. Lincoln, Illinois
- Chapter 11. Yeah, we're moving to St. Louis
- Chapter 12. Cherie's battle with cancer
- In Conclusion
- Slideshow of Cherie images
- Her bio in pdf format
- Comments taken from Arno's,
and Sophie Binder's Facebook page (converted to pdf files)
Cherie was born on September 28, 1946 at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Belleville, Illinois, the first born to Oscar and Alleen Stehlick. There were 5 other siblings (3 girls and 2 boys) that joined her in rapid succession and they all grew up in a duplex shared with grandparents in the historic district of Belleville. She was 10 years old when the family moved to a larger home on Centreville Avenue in Belleville. Her beloved paternal Grandmother had passed away but Grandpa moved with them. She attended a Catholic grade school and moved on to Notre Dame Academy before finishing her final two years of High School at Belleville Township.
As a High School student, she took a part time job at St. Elizabeth Hospital in the nursing unit. Here, under the tutelage of an ancient Catholic Nun, she experienced her first taste of "ministry". She dearly loved the old folks that she cared for but did what she could to avoid the religious trappings that went with going to a Catholic High School and working at a Catholic Hospital. She continuously invented new ways to skip morning mass citing a need for more sleep over reciting pious homilies.She graduated High School in 1964 and started studies at Belleville Junior College. It was during the summer of 1965 that we met and the rollercoaster ride began.
I was an enlisted USAF Airman stationed at Scott Air Force Base and serving as a Weather Observer. I shunned the usual GI hangouts and spent a good deal of my off-duty time at a Belleville dance bar called the "Chatterbox". They had live music, you could dance, and little attention was paid to the birth date on your ID. It was the perfect place for student relaxation. I spotted Cherie and her friend sitting with "T-bone Schwartz", a very large football player and local celebrity. Risking T-bone's ire, I screwed up my courage and asked this lovely girl to dance with me. She said "Yes", T-bone nodded hello, and off we went. I was asked to join their table, we danced together several times and at the close of the evening, she gave me her phone number. It was the time of the County Fair and Cherie had her hand writing "computer analyzed". This was 1965 and this so called analysis was totally bogus, but nevertheless, she wrote her number on a punch card that read" You desire beauty in a home, but comfort first". On the back was written AD-4-1165, a number I remember to this day because I called it many times. The punch card is still in my possession.
I hesitated to tell Cherie that I was in the Air Force, because many girls simply refused to go out with GI's during the Viet Nam conflict, but Cherie got to the truth in a hurry and accepted an invitation to go out on a date. I was poor as a church mouse but I did manage the occasional outings to St. Louis, a cruise on the Admiral paddle boat, and movie dates. I had no transportation but Cherie had a car and would come out to the base to pick me up. You could say we hit it off, because neither of us dated anyone else after our initial meeting. I will never forget my first invitation to meet her family and have dinner with them. Coming from a very reserved and quiet family life, I wasn't prepared for the raucous group I was facing that evening. Her Mother and I hit it off immediately. She was a sweet and lovely woman that did her best to make me feel at home. Her Dad was not home for dinner and I wouldn't meet him until my next outing to Centreville Avenue. Cherie felt that I had passed the test with her Mom with flying colors, the siblings seemed indifferent, but Dad may be more difficult. Her Dad was indeed more difficult but not hostile. Besides, he was rarely around, and Cherie's home became my home away from home. I eventually bought a car and spent just about all my off-duty time with my girl and her family. Cherie was 18 years old and I was 21.
In December 1965 I was informed that I would be stationed in Germany for the next 3 years. An assignment I relished but this also presented me with a momentous decision to make. Three years is a long time to be separated, but I also felt that we both lacked the maturity to be married at such a young age. Besides, my Mother was not that taken by Cherie and I was desperate to avoid conflicts. I immigrated from Berlin, Germany to the USA with my parents at the age of 14, my Dad passed away just 4 years after our arrival, my sister and her husband moved away to California and I went into military service leaving my Mother alone in the City of Chicago. Cherie and I made a couple of trips to Chicago to try and win my Mother over. We didn't succeed entirely. We announced our engagement and rushed into wedding plans. We were married on January 8, 1966 at the Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville. Yes, it was a Lutheran wedding, which brought joy to my mother-in-law (also a Lutheran), but chagrin to Cherie's Dad, a Catholic. We moved into a small 1 bedroom apartment and began our first year of married life. I was working 12 hour shifts at the weather station and Cherie toiled as a scientific librarian with a chemical company in St. Louis and there were times when we only saw each other for a few hours each day. Uncle Sam was not going to pay for Cherie's passage to Germany and when I left to go overseas in March, Cherie moved in with her parents and continued working until she had the resources to join me. Did I mention that we were poor as church mice and that Cherie found out just prior to my departure that she was pregnant with child?
The Air Force sent me on a dream assignment. I was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group (The Geen Berets) that occupied a former German Kaserne and a small airfield. We were located approximately 50 kilometers south of Munich, nestled in the foothills of the Alps along the Isar River. I had secured an apartment that was part of a large Farmhouse on the fringe of a quaint little village by the name of Obersteinbach. I also bought an ancient Volkwagen Beetle because our residence was well removed from the Army Post and housing area. I was a little concerned how Cherie would take to this isolation.
Chapter 3. Ah, Bavaria
I picked her up at the Munich Airport on a beautiful 1st of May. This is a day that is celebrated in Germany and there were banners, flags and flowers everywhere. I'll never forget seeing my lovely wife coming through those doors in the airport concourse. That bright smile, wearing a new dress, and carrying a baby seat that was a last minute gift from her family at the departing airport.
After a longer than ordinary period of hugging and kissing, we left the airport and drove down those beautiful country roads to our new home. Cherie was beyond excited about what she saw all around us, and when we took the hill road going up to the farmhouse, there where boys in lederhosen and girls in traditional Dirndl dresses. They had flowers in their hair and were dancing around a maypole in the village below us. Cherie kept saying things like: "This feels just like a dream" and "I can't believe I'm here". She was happy and in awe but I had some misgivings about going off to work and leaving her alone for long periods of time. As I said, our lodgings were "out there".
She loved everything about our dwelling, including the smell coming up from the stable. I introduced her to our landlady, a lovely women of advanced age, that immediately took to her. The landlady didn't speak English and Cherie's German was limited to what she had studied prior to coming. My fears about her isolation were unfounded. She took to life in Bavaria like a duck to water. We purchased a bike which allowed her to ride into the village to shop and she befriended a Dutch woman that was also married to a GI and resided in the same farm complex. This lady spoke fluent German and English and she took Cherie under her wing. Cherie was a fast learner and even though we did some shopping at the Army Post Exchange, for the most part we shopped and dined on the German economy. She was turning into a German Hausfrau.
Our first born, Arno Martin came into the world at the Army hospital in Munich on October 31, 1966. He was premature and had to remain in the hospital for another week after Cherie's release. We brought him home to our quaint little place. The landlady provided us with an antique handmade crib and Cherie and I went about the business of parenting. While our separation from my Mother and Cherie's family allowed us to find our own path it would have been good to have an experienced grandparent about. We did have that wonderful Dutch lady and our landlady to help and the baby with his blond hair and sparkling blue eyes was fast becoming a local celebrity. Cherie would bundle the little guy into his stroller and take the train to the City of Bad Toelz. The airfield and our little weather station were located just outside the city. Fearless Cherie would come in to do her shopping, push the stroller to the airfield and visit with me, only stopping to let the German ladies coo over the baby. Cherie was fast becoming fluent in the German language and never hesitated to engage the locals. The Germans loved her. I got a promotion, extra money for my paratrooper status and the exchange rate to the German Mark was very favorable. We were able to eat out more, take little trips and eventually bought a speedy little Fiat. We were both very happy in this idyllic setting.
We had no TV, but we were frequent visitors at the Army library. She never expressed any regret over the fact that our courtship prevented her from pursuing a college education even though she had a tremendous thirst for knowledge. She was a voracious reader and when she found a subject that interested her, she did what she could to find out as much as she could. The librarians were all Germans and they catered to Cherie by requesting books for her from other military installations. She maintained this love for books and reading throughout her life.
She met my Berlin relatives, my relatives along the Rhineland and my boyhood friends. My beautiful wife and her adorable baby were well received and many of these relationships remain to this day. My Mother came to visit and stayed for several weeks and Cherie's Dad come for a visit as well. I was sent away for an extended training exercise and Cherie took that opportunity to fly home with our one year old to visit with her family. At the end of my tour in Germany, we left with mixed feelings. The beauty of the Bavarian Alps, both German and American friends, the European culture and the travel opportunities would be missed. But we missed our families as well and the Air Force was sending me back to school for a year which meant I would stay out of Viet Nam.
We flew from Frankfurt to New Jersey, picked up our car at the port, and made our way back to Belleville, Illinois. I took the opportunity to make a trip to Chicago to see my Mother, leaving Cherie and "Little Arnie" with her parents. The year of training took place in Rantoul AFB, Illinois, a horrible little place, but we found a condo in town that was largely inhabited by Air Force Personnel and made it our home. The beauty of this location is that it was less than a 2 hour drive from Chicago and approximately 2.5 hours from Belleville. We went in one direction or the other just about every weekend.
After graduation, the Air Force assigned me to the Latin American Forecast Center in Charleston, SC. We stayed in temporary quarters on the base until we found a home to rent. I didn't much care for my work and Cherie and I both didn't like the area we lived in although the frequent trips to the beaches were enjoyable. I decided to leave the service and interviewed for a weather broadcasting job in Nashville. When I returned home Cherie told me she was pregnant. The Nashville station wanted to start me with one of their smaller affiliate station with a meager salary and the security of the Air Force and the medical support seemed the better choice. I reenlisted and shortly afterwards was given the opportunity to transfer to Ellington AFB, a small reserve base adjoining the NASA Space Center. It was a regular forecasting job supporting a small reserve unit and the Astronaut Training Program. That appealed to me as did the location and the fact that it would continue to keep me out of Viet Nam.
I drove to Texas first to scout out a home for us. We bought our first home, a 3 bedroom and 1 bath home not far from the base. I drove back to claim my wife, my son and as yet unborn baby. Cherie loved the home, got busy making curtains and meeting the neighbors. There were several boys in the neighborhood that were Arnie's age and he immediately made friends with several. It was a modest home but on a good sized lot and in a safe neighborhood. It was the first time since Germany that we liked where we were living.
The weather station staff was a close knit group and we made lasting friendships in Houston, Texas. We went to parties, gave parties, and had frequent visitors over for meals or badminton in the backyard. We missed much of the so called "Cultural Revolution" because of our isolation in Germany, but one of its by-products was introduced to us by a friend. We started smoking marijuana. Oh, the horror! Aside from the fact that it was illegal, I never saw a down side in what we were doing. Many of our friends were doing it and our gatherings were always filled with laughter. I can't recall a harsh word being spoken, there was seldom any alcohol at our gatherings, and we generally ate healthy foods when we got the munchies. Our daughter Jennifer was born on July 9, 1971. What a beautiful little girl we were given, and even though there weren't any German ladies around to coo over her, she got plenty of attention, especially from her Dad. We also got a dog, a 1 year old affectionate and intelligent German shepherd. Life was good.
In my humble efforts to recount our life together I will focus on the periods that seemed the most significant and life changing. Our time in Houston, Texas was certainly one of those.
Cherie always had a thirst for knowledge and it was during our days down in Texas that her interests shifted to "spiritual enlightenment", a path that wasn't necessarily limited to learning about mainstream religions but she read many books about prophets, creeds and persuasions that certainly weren't on the Council of Churches approved reading list. The evening news ran a story about a small Hispanic Pentecostal church that had Jesus appear to them during their baptism service. We were told that his image remained imprinted on the mural behind the baptism. Cherie grabbed me and some of our stoner friends to go and see it. We all piled into our VW van and headed out to Alvin, Tx.
It was a nice little church and the locals welcomed us and showed us the baptism mural. It was a nice looking landscape but where was Jesus? I didn't see him, Cherie thought she could see him if she squinted her eyes a little, but one of our friends saw it so plainly, he claimed it was painted on. Things escalated from then on. When Cherie told one of her friends about this excursion, her friend gave her the lowdown on Pentecostals and their beliefs, and "hey", there was a little church like that not too far from where she lived. Cherie and her friend decided to pay them a visit and check it out for themselves. The woman that returned home that Sunday afternoon was not the same one that left me that morning. Cherie told me that the congregation had prayed for her and she was "born again". The skeptic in me had his doubts but one could not ignore some of the changes in her. She quit smoking dope, but more significantly, she quit her cigarette habit. She said she was "delivered". It was impressive indeed, because this was a woman that smoked well over a pack per day and wouldn't even walk out to the mailbox without her cigarettes. I've tried for years to get her to give up the habit and even enlisted the aid of our young son. He would tell her "Mommy, mommy, don't smoke please, 'cause smoking gives you heart disease". My nagging and his pleading achieved nothing but Jesus did it in an instant.
I waited for several weeks for it to wear off but if anything, she became even more resolute to "follow Jesus". I was glad that she quit that nasty cigarette habit but missed her sitting with us sucking on the water pipe that always graced our dining room table in the evening. She still sat there with us and served up food and drink but never partook of the noble weed any more. I was intrigued enough take her to church on Sunday, but just dropped her off and went and got coffee. I returned to find the service was still going on and just stood by the door and listened. It was a pretty raucous affair alright, with loud singing and shouting. When it showed signs of waning, I retreated to my vehicle and waited for her. She came out beaming with our son and daughter Jennifer in tow. This was the first time they went with her because I had been keeping them with me at home. They didn't look any worse for the wear. On the way to our favorite cafeteria she asked me if I would consider going with her next Sunday. To my surprise, I answered in the affirmative.
I know this is getting long, but it was such a pivotal period in our lives that I deemed it necessary to go into some detail. I did go with her the next Sunday, sat towards the back of the church, endured the loud praying and shouting, but I wasn't panicked either. My parents never went to church but I would go with another family and always liked the congregational singing and sermon. That was the Lutherans however, and this was definitely not what I was used to. I don't know if Cherie warned them not to get pushy with me or if the folks in this small congregation just had the good sense to let me find my own path, but they were very warm and friendly towards me and I felt it was OK to make another visit. Just to make a long story short, after a few more cautious visits, I too took that walk to the altar and gave my heart to Jesus.
Woof! Much to the chagrin of our friends, I too quit smoking pot and slowly but surely, they didn't come to visit as much as they used to. We had become "Jesus Freaks". We also became proud parents to our third child, Christopher Steven Perlow, born on March 23, 1974.
Chapter 6. Have you heard the good news?
Cherie was never shy about sharing the "Good News" and pretty soon we were bringing all sorts of undesirables into the House of the Lord. While it was filling the pews, many of the long time parishioners didn't quite know what to do with these young people. Goodness gracious, these girls wore makeup, didn't wear bras and some of their attitudes and frank language just didn't belong. It was about that time that we befriended another young couple that was related to one of the church elders. They told us about a place that welcomed everybody and housed young people with life controlling problems. In those days it generally meant a heroin addiction. The name of the place was called Teen Challenge.
We decided to go to one of their Friday night meetings held in a large home in the Tenderloin District of Houston, Tx. It wasn't "church" but a place of real ministry. We were made welcome and stayed to listen to some of the residents share their stories of deliverance. Cherie and I both walked away convinced that there was so much more to this Christian walk than warming a pew on Sunday morning. This was a conviction that stayed with us throughout our lives. We opened our home to some of the overflow guests that the Center couldn't accommodate and our kids learned to share their space with strangers. Cherie cooked and taught home economic skills to the resident girls while taking care of our three children as well. I left the Air Force to take a job at the NASA Space center and our finances improved significantly. Teen Challenge expanded to a facility just north of Houston and Cherie and I spend many hours either at the City Center or at the farm volunteering our time and talents. Cherie generally ministered to the young ladies while I started making visits to the County Jail and Texas Prisons talking to felons that were hoping to be paroled or released into the Teen Challenge program. Cherie would sometimes visit the County Jail to talk to female applicants or just make visits. I spent a good deal of time in the jails and prisons as well as in the Court system. Many of our applicants were looking for a way to escape sentencing while others were truly trying to change their lives. And there were others that merely wanted to talk to a friendly soul and glean some encouragement. One of those was a young lady by the name of Carla Rae Tucker. She confessed to a gruesome murder while under the influence of drugs. Both Cherie and I had the opportunity to talk to her and pray with her, but she eventually transferred to the State Penitentiary and was later executed.
We led busy, exciting and fruitful lives in those days. I had a great full time job, Cherie raised our kids and we both spent what time we could volunteering at the Teen Challenge Program.
The project I was working on at the Space Center was slowly drawing to a close and I was given the option of transferring to Washington DC or to a small environmental assessment group in Columbia, Missouri. Cherie didn't try to influence my decision in any way. A move to DC might have been the better career opportunity but Columbia was close to her family and I felt it would be a better place to raise our family. We're off on yet another move.
I had been to Columbia visiting the Center for Environmental Assessments on a couple occasions and wasn't too impressed with the city at first. Cherie, the kids and the dog stayed with her parents in St. Louis while I stayed in a hotel, started work at the center, and spent my off hours looking at homes. We did very well on the sale of our home in Houston. We bought a second car and had cash to buy a better and bigger home. I scouted out homes during the week and Cherie joined me on weekends looking at these homes. We settled on a nice brick ranch, not too far from my work. The home boasted 2 baths, a large partially finished basement, and a very large fenced yard that suited our dog just fine. We settled in, learned to like the City of Columbia and looked for a church home. It was difficult to settle for a Sunday sermon after the excitement of working so closely with troubled young people. The pastor of the church we attended also went to the State Maximum Security Prison once a week to hold a service for some of the inmates there. I tagged along and in just a few weeks the "Prison Ministry" was handed over to me. Cherie wasted no time making new friends, joined a bible study group, guest taught at the elementary school and cooked up some wonderful meals. Yes, this girl could cook and bake.
We met a young couple from the church that was living in a trailer that they had to vacate, so we invited them to stay with us. Arnie, who had the basement bedroom, bath and rec area all to himself had to give up his space to this young couple. Our entire family enjoyed having the couple stay with us. The kids loved them, we did things together and in general had the times of our lives. Even after this couple moved out, our kids were asked to make room for strangers in need. The wife and son of one of the men incarcerated in the Jefferson City Maximum Security Prison, an unwed and very pregnant mother with a young daughter, and so on. We decided to look for some land outside of the city to build on. We eventually bought two 5 acre parcels just a short drive outside of the city. We built a lovely passive solar home on one of the plots of land.
We had small group meetings in our home and people would just drop in occasionally. Our kids all had their own space and their friends were never far away. Cherie became a serious runner, we bought a pickup truck and started a large garden plot. It really was an idyllic setting.
Through the years we lived in Columbia, we kept in touch with the folks at Teen Challenge down in Houston. We took trips to visit, and they in turn visited us. The things we experienced while we were still living in Houston and the stories of redemption we heard from our Texas visitors reminded us why we were drawn to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to begin with. The Sunday morning church routine just wasn't doing it for us.
That's right, I quit a well paying job, we sold our lovely country home and we headed back south to help out at the new Teen Challenge facility located near Wharton, Texas. This wasn't an easy move for us. We were very comfortable and secure in Columbia and headed into a venture where we would be dependent on the generosity of the area churches and donations from individuals and local businesses. The move was hard on the kids. They left many friends behind and we also left our poor cat with the buyer of our home. Our oldest son would have started High School with many of his friends in Columbia but now he would start all over with a whole new set of kids. We had enough money to purchase a home in Sugar Land, Texas and we proceeded to make the daily drive to the Center in Hungerford. It was called a Residential Training Program and it was located in what used to be a high school, a large complex that included three wings of offices, school rooms (most of which had been converted into dormitories), a cafeteria, a large gymnasium and an auto shop. The complex also included an array of trailers for the staff and mothers with children. Cherie immediately went to work organizing the kitchen and taking over the responsibility for securing food and teaching the residents to prepare it. This was no easy task and if that wasn't enough, she eventually started a ceramics shop and opened a thrift shop in the city of Wharton. I was responsible for inductions into the program which also included the prison ministry and outreach to the community. Needless to say, this was more than a full time job and we soon realized that the daily commute from our home in Sugar Land was too time consuming, so we rented out our home and moved into a double wide trailer in the complex. After spending time at the kids' school observing their curriculum, Cherie decided that she would home school our children. Yes, indeed.
This picture shows Cherie with the other senior staff ladies planning the day's activities. Cherie and the lady sitting on the left (Voneta) were dedicated running partners, traversing as many as six miles on almost a daily basis in the Texas heat. The lady in the center is our dear friend Priscilla who, like Voneta, are still in touch. The kids had no difficulty making friends and the complex along with the horses and livestock, a nearby fishing creek and occasional outings to the Gulf made for an almost daily adventure. The kids mingled freely with the residents and our daughter Jennifer spent many hours helping the Moms in the nursery. Yes, we were all quite busy. Our son Arno fast tracked through his school curriculum and within a couple of years earned himself a full academic scholarship to Houston Baptist University.
After more than 5 years of ministering at the Teen Challenge Campus, we decided to move back to Missouri. There were several things that influenced our decision, but suffice it to say that both Cherie and I agreed that it was time to leave. We were very attached to some of the staff and residents and when our rental truck pulled out of the complex, the residents climbed out of their classroom windows, climbed onto the truck and blocked the road. More tears and hugs but we finally got on the road and made our way back to Columbia.
Friends had secured a duplex for us to live in and a group were waiting for us when we arrived and helped us unload. The pastor of our former church home came by and offered me a position with the church supervising the construction of a school, gym and a cafeteria next to the church. Lacking other offers, I took on that responsibility and toiled on that project for better than 2 years. During our stay in Texas, we spent most of our savings and we couldn't sell our home in Texas but had good renters that paid on time and maintained the place. Cherie wasted no time finding work. She cleaned other people's homes and volunteered at the church. A good friend offered her a job as bookkeeper/office manager, a job she held until we moved yet again.
We were able to buy a home close to the church and we made a little money rehabbing a couple of homes in the City of Columbia. After sprucing up the home we bought, we sold it, bought another that we also turned over to buy a very nice home near the University Campus. After the church project came to a close, I re-applied with the National Weather Service and they immediately offered me a couple positions. Tired of moving, I held out for a job at the Columbia Regional Airport. Even though I had left Civil Service for nearly 8 years, they did what they could to accommodate me and after a month or so I was back at my old job and making decent money again. Cherie was jogging again, I was playing soccer and both Jennifer and Christopher attended the Christian Academy. Our son Arno was still at HBU in Texas but on a visit home, he came out to see me on the soccer field. One of my teammates was the soccer coach at Central Methodist College and when he saw Arno play, he told him to come to the College and he would fix him up with a soccer scholarship. And so it came to be that our family was together again. The Weather Service promoted me to Official in Charge of the Columbia office. I was making more money and we were all together again. Our son graduated from Central Methodist College and immediately went to work in sales for a medical equipment company. Jennifer started at the University of Missouri and Chris went to Southwest Missouri State a year later. Our oldest son married a Stephens College girl and they gave us our first granddaughter, Summer Elizabeth. Cherie and I got away for a 3 week vacation in Europe seeing the sites and visiting with friends and relatives. Life was good for the Perlow family. That was 1994, the year the National Weather Service centralized their offices and started closing the smaller regional offices. My office was slated to close in the spring of 1995. Yup, it meant another move, one that none of us wanted.
A brand new office just outside the town of Lincoln, Illinois. Our household items were in storage and Cherie and I were lodged in a Comfort Inn while I settled into my job and we looked for a suitable home. We looked all over Lincoln and the nearby cities of Springfield and Bloomington. We finally settled on a house adjacent to Lincoln's golf course. All this took the better part of a month and Cherie escaped our hotel lodgings to stay with friends in Columbia and visit with the kids and granddaughter for a period of time.
We joined what the locals called "the
country club" because it was directly behind our home and had a decent
restaurant, tennis courts, a swimming pool and the golf course. The members
were a bunch of stodgy, cliquish and aging group and not too outgoing to
newcomers. Cherie occupied her time with daily jogs, tennis, swimming and
walks through the adjacent park. We spent most of our weekends visiting St.
Louis or Chicago. Even my outgoing and generally social wife had a hard time
making new friends and she decided to get her realtor's license and start
working again to help pass the time. We also bought an old farm house to
renovate and flip. Even that wasn't enough to relieve the boredom of living in
Lincoln, Illinois. Our son Arno took a job in nearby Effingham and this gave
us an opportunity for more frequent visits and time with our granddaughter. Cherie
also pioneered in a new pastime called IRC or (Internet Relay Chat), the forerunner
to today's social media. She connected with folks all over the world, some
of which stayed in touch through the years.
We bided our time waiting on a better job to open up.
When my counterpart in the St. Louis office retired, I put in for the job, was accepted and made plans to move back to civilization. I moved around a lot working for the Government, but they do their best to make it easy on you. They come into your home, pack you up, ship your household goods, and unpack you in your new residence.
Determined not to make another move anytime soon, we searched for a new home that was both close to my work, comfortable and close to parks and shopping. We settled on a nice home in a burb called Dardenne Prairie. Cherie took a job as a beauty advisor for Lancome Cosmetics at a nearby mall but ditched that job when she decided to fulfill a dream of becoming a flight attendant. She applied for training with a commuter airline at first, graduated and started flying right away. Even though the job offered plenty of excitement and flying privileges for both of us, she wanted to see faraway places, something only a major airline could offer. She applied for a job with TWA and was accepted. She had to go through training again, graduated and started flying. I tagged along whenever I could get away and we used her flying privileges to escape to warm and exotic places, Europe, and across the USA to visit friends and relatives. This was a job that Cherie truly loved and her personality was ideally suited for what her job description called for. She made many friends during her years with TWA, some that stayed in touch to this day.
I was at home alone watching the events of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 unfold concerned about my wife who was working a flight to Philadelphia. I received a call from her a bit later. It appears her flight was already on the taxiway when they were told to return to the gate. This was the last time Cherie boarded a flight as an employee. TWA was sold to American Airlines and her short time on the job put her on the bottom of the seniority list. Her time as a flight attendant was too short but she made the most of it. She accepted a government grant to retrain and took an aestheticians training course that kept her busy for some time. Upon graduating, she got a job at a holistic spa.
We also bought a 100 year old home in the city that we refurbished and updated. This was quite a change from living in the burbs but we both loved this home, it's large yard, the diverse neighborhood and it's proximity to some very fine restaurants and St. Louis attractions. Cherie continued working at the spa, but also volunteered at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and got involved with the Police Focus Group. She also found a prayer group that met every Wednesday morning. She dearly loved that group and never missed going.
Our son Arno took on a great job that also brought him back to St. Louis. His wife Leslie brought another beautiful baby girl into this world. Allison Reed Perlow was born on April 25, 2000, just about a month before my daughter married and gave us our third granddaughter, Charlotte Olivia in February of 2002. Cherie and I both had stable jobs and there was little chance that we would have to relocate any time soon, we loved our home and we had three wonderful grandkids to fuss over. Life was good.
Our youngest son Chris took a job teaching in Korea after he graduated from the University in 2005. That was the same year that our oldest son divorced from his wife Leslie. It was something that was very difficult for all of us to deal with. All parties lived in close proximity and Cherie made sure she had plenty of quality time with all the grandkids. They would stay with us for a time and Cherie always had some sort of project planned for them. These times with Grandma were affectionately known as Camp Grandma. I built a swing set in the back yard and we had a park just a short walk from our home. The kids loved being at their grandparents.
In 2007 our son Arno partnered with and eventually married a very lovely woman named Rebecca that had 2 sons from a previous marriage. Cherie befriended the two boys and welcomed them to the extended family. The younger of the two boys was severely handicapped and confined to a wheel chair. Cherie loved this boy like she loved her own children. When he was moved to the Missouri Children's Home, she was there a couple of times a week, reading to him, taking him out in his chair and giving him soothing massages. She saw the needs the children at the home had and responded. She spent many hours making blankets, quilts and wheel chair covers for the kids in the home.
Cherie suffered a mild heart attack and a stroke in 2009. She recovered from both in short order and took steps to prevent a reoccurrence. She had to give up jogging but she took daily walks with a neighbor and when the neighbor moved away, I took the neighbors place. We lived in our University City home for 12 years. During that time, we both kept busy with several community projects and made lasting friendships.
We didn't really want to move but the sheer size of the house and the triple lot it sat on made for a lot of work. And so it was that we moved yet again. This time out to the western edge of the greater St. Louis area, to the City of Chesterfield and a more practical home for senior citizens. It took some adjustment, but we settled in eventually. Cherie continued with her visits to the Children's Home, her weekly prayer meetings and our daily walks. We also joined the Jewish Community Center where we participated in the water aerobics and swim classes.
Our daughter Jennifer and her family sold their fine arts gallery in Columbia and moved to Denver, Colorado, where she, her husband Chris and our granddaughter Charlie continued their artsy ways. Jenn as an art consultant, Chris as the Cultural Director for the City of Greenwood Village, and our Charlie continued to develop her musical talents (both voice and instrument) at the prestigious Denver School of Arts. Our youngest son spent some time in Columbia after returning from Korea but decided to follow his sister to Denver.
Our oldest granddaughter Summer started at the University of Missouri but applied for and was accepted at NYU in her sophomore year. Cherie still had her Allison to dote on and continued with her visits to the Children's Home to be with Ben.
It started with fluctuating blood pressure readings. Neither her general practitioner nor the cardiologist seemed too alarmed by this. But early morning on June 30, 2016 Cherie complained of severe abdominal cramping, pain around her back and shoulders, and dizziness. I rushed her to the Emergency Room at St. Luke's Hospital where she went through a series of tests, bloodwork, ultrasound, and scans.
It was determined that she had a considerable amount of fluid in her pelvic region along with a mass or tumor. The doctors recommended surgery as soon as possible. Seeing her in pre-op, she looked gray and nearly lifeless. The surgeons felt it was best to proceed, even though surgery added even more risks. A cancer in her ovary had grown very large causing the ovary to burst and allowing blood to flow into the pelvic cavity. The surgical team drained well over a quart of blood and removed a malignant tumor, 7 x 17 cm in size. They also removed the other ovary and tubes. By this time her pulse dropped below 30, her heart stopped twice and a defibrillator was used to keep her heart beating. They closed her up but left the chemo port implants for another day. She spent four days in the ICU before they moved her to a private room. She received only limited visitors in the ICU but once she regained some of her strength she enjoyed a steady flow of visitors. She improved steadily and was released into my care a week after the surgery. I was very glad to have her home with me.
Her surgery incision was very slow to heal, mainly because not one of the doctors that were treating her thought about stopping the blood thinners she was taking for her heart issues. Another scan in October revealed the development of another tumor and on Halloween she fainted and I called an ambulance to transport her to the emergency room. They gave her four units of blood, stabilized her, and kept her for several days. On her last day at the hospital, she underwent a massive chemo therapy treatment. She was released into my care the next day. She had a horrible reaction to the chemo treatment and a few days later, her old surgery incision burst open.The tumor has grown considerably, it was deemed inoperable and Cherie refused to undergo another chemo treatment. We made the mutual decision to abandon the oncologist and put her care into the hands of a palliative care doctor. She looked at her medical history and noticed right away that she was on blood thinners and told her to stop taking those. Her wounds started healing but the tumor continued to grow and swell her belly, threatening to burst open again.
She entered the hospice program in November. I dressed her wounds, fed and bathed her. When she was able, we would venture for a short walk up the cul-de-sac. The hospice nurses came to our home twice a week to take her vitals and look at her wounds. The nurses were wonderful and caring but could do nothing to stop the growing tumor and the increasing pain levels. The medication increased in strength and dosage week by week.
During this time, Cherie entertained a steady flow of well wishers and visitors. She had lost her hair, but she still looked beautiful. Her radiant smile brightened the room.
Our home was always filled with flowers and hundreds of greeting cards were strung around the central fireplace. As her condition worsened she was confined to a hospital bed but I was determined to keep her at home rather then send her to a nursing facility. In her final days, I had the help of our daughter Jennifer who flew in from Denver to be with us. She and I would sleep in shifts on the single bed adjacent to Cherie's hospital bed.
At 7:08 in the morning of April 3, 2017, my lovely wife and soul mate of over 50 years drew her last breath ending the ordeal of her battle with this deadly cancer. She is sorely missed.
This attempt to chronicle my wife's too short life was a difficult task for me. It's an effort to keep her memory alive for family and friends but mainly for our three children and grand children. In retrospect, I think I should have made an effort to get her input while her mind was still sharp but who wants to talk about final legacy when there is still hope of recovery.
Not many married couples reach their golden anniversary milestone. Half of all marriages end in divorce and many never reach that mark because of an early demise of one or both of the partners. Cherie and I did reach this milestone, and like every long term goal worth pursuing, it wasn't without a certain degree of difficulty. We were both headstrong and stubborn people and arguments and little skirmishes, followed by short periods of silences and pouting, were very much part of our marriage. But we loved each other very much, we had made a vow before God and we just couldn't fathom a life apart from one another.
My time in the military and federal service took us to many different places and experiences. We met many people and made many friends and most importantly, we always had each other. We were only separated for short periods of time because of temporary military assignments or short vacations spent apart from one another with friends or family. Reunions were always pretty special.
My wife was a very special person, not only to me and our immediate family but to so many whose lives she touched. Deeply spiritual but never religious, she followed the path she deemed right in God's eyes. "Test everything and hold on to what is good and right" was one of her mottos and many of her spiritual quests probably wouldn't go over too well with those trapped in organized religion. She was always quick to respond to genuine needs but had little time for trivial complaints. Everyone that has known her for a period of time has probably heard her exclaim "get a grip" or "just snap out of it". She spoke her mind honestly and without reservation. There was no duplicity in her. Quite a woman...
Some of my favorite Cherie Images
Over the years, I have taken thousands of pictures of my lovely wife. First with my 35 mm, then with a pocket camera, then came the digital. Her ready smile made her a great subject, and she always held still for "yet one more picture". I am so glad I took all those pictures. I treasure the memories from 52 years of being together and these images trigger so many. I've tried to put this little slideshow in somewhat chronological order but wasn't entirely successful.