“He loves being retired; I don’t,” she attested during an interview last week. “I like to come to work and see people. I don’t like staying at home.”
Despite her 68 years, Cheris is a dynamo of energy who, by her own admission, refuses to be what she refers to as “a sitter.”
“I like to stay busy,” she added.
It’s a good thing. The spirited Rush Springs woman is the new site manager for Marlow’s senior nutrition center in Redbud Park, where she devotes 25 hours a week to ensure that everything runs smoothly during the hours the doors are open.
On the average, the center makes 27 home deliveries and feeds another 33 seniors onsite every day from Monday through Friday throughout the year. The cost of a meal is $1.50 for those who are older than 60. After visiting the site three or more times, an individual is eligible to enroll in the program and become a regular client.
Since Cheris is a “morning person,” she doesn’t mind rising early enough to drive from Rush Springs and open the doors to the center by eight o’clock in the morning for the early-bird clients. These folks enjoy conversing with each other and drinking coffee, and some engage in cards or other games, until lunchtime.
In the meanwhile, the program’s cook, David Tutt of Marlow, and his assistant, Judy Manuel, also of Marlow, prepare the day’s meal in Rush Springs. The two then transport the food to Marlow, and Cheris helps them in the serving process.
Before assuming the site manager’s position, she was one of the cooks at the nutrition site in Rush, where meals for that location and Marlow’s were prepared.
“I like overseeing the Marlow program, but I’m tired of cooking,” she said.
Little wonder. Cheris has an extensive background in food preparation.
For 18 years, she was manager for the school cafeteria program at Rush Springs, which fed students at every level—elementary, middle and high school. Then during the 2012-’13 academic year, her final one with the cafeteria program, she stepped down as manager to serve as head cook.
During that extended period, Cheris attended courses and became a certified nutritionist.
And if all those commitments didn’t demand enough time in the kitchen, she and Jerry once owned two different restaurants in Rush Springs.
During the 1980s and early ’90s, they owned and operated Jerry’s Café for around 10 years, and during seven of those, they also ran the Redskin Snak Shak across the street from the high school. Furthermore, Jerry was on the road a good bit of the time driving a truck for Halliburton, which forced Cheris to shoulder a great deal of the responsibility for the businesses during his absences.
Her experience, credentials and pleasant, outgoing personality make her the ideal person to oversee operations at a site that provides nourishing meals for the area’s seniors.
“I love my new job as site manager,” she noted. “The seniors are a great bunch of people, and I am looking forward to working with them.”
Born to cookCheris was born March 12, 1945, in Chickasha to Leo and Jane Long. She and her two siblings grew up on a farm southeast of Cement, in the Rocky Ford area.
In September 1963, when Cheris was 16, she and Jerry were married and she quit school. However, she later pursued a general equivalency diploma, juggling her role as a student with that of mother to three small children. But she stayed with it and ultimately graduated from Chickasha High School with a GED.
When her three oldest children—Richard, Darla and James—were 9, 8 and 6, she and Jerry became parents for a fourth time. This time, however, the blessings were threefold. The Brown family grew from five to eight overnight, so to speak, when the triplets—Lisa, Tina and Sheila—arrived.
Cheris and Jerry also brought up a grandson, Cody Sims, who now teaches math at Anadarko High.
With seven hungry mouths to feed (eight, counting Jerry’s), she had no choice but to perfect her culinary skills.
“We always had kids at our house. We had to have a café to feed that bunch,” she quipped, adding, “They were good kids; I didn’t have time to spoil ’em rotten.”
The oldest child, Richard, died young. While on his way to work at Halliburton, he was involved in a traffic accident in Marlow when his car was struck by a drunken driver.
Darla is married to Marlow graduate Roland Coon, and they make their home in Ninnekah. James lives in Moore and attends Oklahoma City Community College. Lisa Young is a Duncan resident; and the other two triplets, Tina Wenzel and Sheila Shook, live in Ninnekah.
The Browns, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have nine grandchildren altogether, as well as a great-grandchild.
Tired, but happyIn addition to her job at the nutrition site, Cheris spends around three hours a week as housekeeper for the Sommerset Retirement Home in Rush Springs. In this position, she tidies up the home’s public areas once a week.
She stays busy throughout the day, but when she does finally get home late in the afternoon, she collapses into her easy chair and watches TV until sleep overtakes her.
Leisure activities include sewing, making baby quilts, and losing herself in novels and mysteries. Then there’s shopping and browsing through garage sales.
Cheris is a member of Friends of the Library in Rush and is active in the Monarch Club, a group that meets monthly and awards a scholarship to a high school senior each spring. She also participates in her community’s chapter of the Red Hat Society and is an active member of the Southern Baptist Church in Rush.
Despite her amazing vitality, Cheris does fall victim to fatigue at times; but it would take more than a little temporary weariness to dampen her spirits.
“I have no complaints with life,” she observed.