Cheri Peters of Sewanee went home to be with the Lord on Saturday, May 7, after a brave and tenacious seventeen-year battle with cancer.
Born in Gary, Indiana, on November 10, 1952, Cheri spent much of her childhood in the Philippines, where her parents had been called as missionaries and where she discovered her own life-long vocation to serve God and support people in need. Everyone who met her afterwards was blessed by this.
Cheri attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where she earned a B.A. in English, then moved on to Northern Illinois University for an M.A. in Philosophy. It was there, in 1978, that she met a fellow philosophy student named Jim Peters, who became the love of her life. They married in 1980 and together migrated to Northwestern University, where Jim earned his Ph.D. and Cheri earned an M.A. in English. They arrived in Sewanee in 1984.
She had many roles in the community: she taught several times in the University of the South English Department, was the Administrator of the Sewanee School of Letters, and—from its founding in 1990 until her retirement in 2010—served as Creative Writing Programs Manager of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. During those 20 years, as the Conference rose to international prominence, Cheri’s was its warm telephone voice and the even warmer smile that welcomed writers from across the country to a mountaintop village with one stoplight. Many of them came to love Sewanee, and some were reflective enough to realize that what they really loved was Cheri, whose combination of effortless efficiency and gracious hospitality made their two weeks of literary boot camp joyous. Even when the joy became too boisterous, Cheri responded graciously. One participant remembers this gentle morning-after reproach: “The fiction-writers are blaming the poets, and the poets are blaming the fiction-writers. Please don’t make me come down and settle it.” Many of those writers—from the fledgling participants to the Pulitzer-winners on the faculty—became her life-long friends.
After her retirement she gave her time to Lift the Lid, a charity founded by Writers’ Conference participant Sara Goff which serves underprivileged children in many countries. Among its many ministries, Cheri was especially dedicated to the School in a Cart in the Philippines which provides abandoned street children sustenance and educational support.
Parallel to Cheri’s working life was her vocation as the friend, neighbor, and wise counselor to so many people in Sewanee, in Chattanooga, and—thanks to the Writers’ Conference—across the country. Any of them would say that she was exactly the friend you needed in an emergency: her cool head and warm heart could be counted on to solve whatever problem you faced, usually making it look easy. But she was even better in a non-emergency, when a cup of tea, a delicious home-cooked meal, or a relaxing evening at Lake Eva gave her the chance to remind you that you were loved—by God and by her.
For those who knew her, Cheri exemplified a life of faith and love. A note from her would often end with the words, “Go with God.” Though her passing leaves her husband Jim, their children Nathaniel, Sasha, and Nadia, her sisters Susan (Billy) and Janet (Mark), her brothers Frank (Marti) and John (Norma), her sister-in-law Linda, and all their friends heartbroken, they are comforted by the knowledge that she has gone with God, and that they will meet her again in His presence.
A memorial service will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at Kennerly Hall of the Parish Church of St. Mark and St. Paul in Sewanee, TN. A reception will follow.
Memorial gifts may be made in her name to Lift The Lid, Inc., Christ the King Church, Winchester, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga, or The South Cumberland Farmer's Market.
Arrangements entrusted to Covenant Funeral & Crematory, Crox family owned and operated, www.CovenantFuneral.com.
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