Resident Spotlight: Richard & Arrena Cheek

A Recipe for Happiness

They were the same age and had known each other since elementary school. How could Richard make Arrena really notice him? The story unfolds:

Arrena Andrews was born in Columbia, Tennessee, the middle of three girls known as “The Andrews Sisters”. They actually sang on a local radio program! Her father was a physician and her mother was “into everything”. She was in the fourth grade when Richard moved with his family from a 96 acre farm in Pottsville, Tennessee, to Columbia mid-way his fifth grade. In Richard’s previous school, the decision was made for him to omit first grade because his mother, a teacher, had taught him at home. This decision was not ideal for Richard socially or physically as he remained the smallest boy in his class. In high school, the popular Arrena caught the eye of Richard and he asked her for a date. “After our one date, she ignored me”, says Richard. He adds, “As a senior in high school, I was five feet, two inches tall and weighed only 98 pounds”. Then, Richard went away to college and during his freshman year, grew twelve inches in height and gained to 135 pounds. When he returned to Columbia and Arrena spotted him at church, she asked, “is that the Cheek boy”? The rest is history.

Arrena had a very happy childhood and was known as a “tomboy” who loved to play “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans”. She and her family were active in the Presbyterian Church. She was a cheerleader in elementary school but chose to play saxophone in the band in high school. Following high school, Arrena entered Vanderbilt University and earned a B.A in Business. She was active in Chi Omega Sorority and continues in the Memphis Alumnae Chapter.

Richard obtained a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville as part of the Co-Op program with Monsanto Chemical Company in Columbia. During their college years, Richard often visited Arrena at Vanderbilt and romance was born. However, Richard decided to give up engineering, applied to University of Tennessee Medical School, and enrolled in September, 1961. Arrena was not pleased that Richard chose medicine over engineering. “I had always said that I would never marry a doctor. My family life had always centered around hospital visits and sick people.” Nevertheless, after five years of dating, their love for each other was secure. They were married in June, 1962, and made Memphis their home. While Richard was in medical school, Arrena taught school. They have two children, a son John, deceased, and a daughter Lucy who lives in Arizona. They have three grandchildren. 

young couple
Sigma Chi Ball 1958

Graduating from medical school in 1964, Richard was first in his class and was inducted into AOA Honorary Society. He chose John Gaston Hospital for his internship and declared a residency in general surgery. He achieved the rank of Chief Resident and completed his residency in 1970. He also served in the 330th General Hospital Unit of the Army Reserves, achieving rank of Captain. 

When Richard finished his residency, he joined the staff of the UT Department of Surgery and taught there until 1980. During this time he was part of the team that performed the first kidney transplant in Memphis. He also published several articles in medical journals, authored chapters in two surgical textbooks and authored a monograph of carcinoid tumors. In 1980, he left teaching to enter private practice. At Baptist Hospital, he performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy. He closed his private practice in 1997 but took a part-time teaching position at the Memphis VA Hospital until his complete retirement in 2005. 

For Richard, his skill at surgery was possibly due to his ability to work with his hands. He is an accomplished wood master, having made many things, such as violins. His other hobbies include fishing, reading, and playing pool. He loves to sing in choral groups and has been a member of the Entertainers Chorus, and, a frequent soloist since moving to Kirby. 

Arrena loves cooking, gardening, photography and reading. She has devoted much of her time to community activities such as Woman’s Exchange. She served as a core leader of the non-denominational Bible study group, Community Bible Study. “This was my priority” says Arrena. “I dearly loved studying with such knowledgeable ladies”. Both Arrena and Richard have been members of Christ Methodist Church since 1985. “We both love the church”, says Arrena. “We try to never miss a Sunday and we are committed to the Lamplighters Sunday School Class and the 11:00 service”, adds Richard. 

The Cheeks moved to Kirby Pines in 2017. They were familiar with several people who lived here and were anxious to downsize. “The people here are very special. They care for one another and step up when someone is in need. It is a great place to spend the last chapter of our lives and God has blessed us with this beautiful place”, agree both Arrena and Richard. 

Having a couple like the Cheeks, who are so talented, compassionate and friendly is what makes Kirby Pines the special place it is. Both Arrena and Richard agree that the following recipe is the foundation for their life: 

Recipe For Happiness – First: Serve God; Second: Remember decisions, not circumstances, determine the flavor of your lives; Third: Live each day so you’ll never be afraid of tomorrow, nor, ashamed of yesterday. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines