A DESIRE TO FINISH WELL
Cheryl Johnson became a part of our lives when she married our former and beloved Chaplain Don Johnson in May 2005. Always an extension of Don’s ministries, Cheryl continues today toward the goal she and Don shared, “to finish well.” Cheryl’s caring and positive nature reflect a life of success in having attained both personal and spiritual growth.
Cheryl’s parents, Terry and Bobbi Stigall, and two older siblings, moved to midtown Memphis when she was a young girl. This allowed Cheryl to attend what she considered “great schools” in the area: Idlewild Elementary, Fairview Junior and Central High. The family became members of Union Avenue Methodist Church. Music and dance lessons were offered; however, Cheryl says that she was “tone deaf” and music lessons stopped. She found her love in athletics, and according to her, “To say I was a tomboy would be an understatement!” She played softball and basketball in the beginning but later added golf, biking, and tennis.
In her senior year of high school, Cheryl transferred to White Station High and discovered acting. Her involvement in athletics, dancing and acting has continued throughout her adult life as evidenced by her current membership with the Kirby Pines Line Dancers and Ham’ateurs Group.
Cheryl chose to attend Florida International University in Miami and earned a degree in Finance. She was given the opportunity to join Citibank’s Management Training Program. Out of a class of twenty-five, there were only three women! She worked in several departments including Private and Corporate Banking, Training, and Public Relations before being selected for a new program in which bankers were trained and licensed to sell and manage investment portfolios. Cheryl says, “It was an ‘eye-opener’ to work for an international organization with colleagues from all over the world. Since I was from Memphis, everyone wanted to know about Elvis. They thought I surely must have known him.”
According to Cheryl, “I have been blessed to have been married to two wonderful men. While living in Miami, I met and married Steven Waters, a banker, civic leader, and devout Christian. Steve practiced the teachings in James 2:24 that ‘Faith without works is dead.’ Following his unexpected death in 1991, so many shared how their life had been greatly influenced by him. Most of his work was done privately, and even I didn’t know all his acts of kindness and generosity.
In 2000, Cheryl retired early and moved back to Memphis to be near her mother after her father passed away. In 2004, her mother, Bobbi Stigall, moved to Kirby Pines. It was at a Vespers service that Cheryl re-connected with Chaplain Don Johnson—and the rest is history! They were married in a private ceremony in the Chapel at Christ Methodist Church, where Cheryl maintains her membership.
“It was a new world,” admits Cheryl, “being married to a pastor/chaplain who had lived his entire life in Memphis where everyone seemed to know and love him. Don was a man who had devoted his life to serving God. He knew he wanted to preach and teach God’s word since he was eight years old. It was such an honor to serve with Don at Kirby Pines and also with his Bible study group, Afterglow, Life Choices, and the National Religious Broadcasters Organization.”
As chaplain at Kirby Pines, Don visited and checked on those residents who were ill or in need of prayer. He also conducted the Sunday 10:00 am religious services in the PAC as well as in the health care areas on Sunday afternoon, always assisted by Cheryl. Together, Don and Cheryl were a great team! Sadly, Don passed away on September 24, 2021, following an extended illness.
Cheryl says that she has been fortunate to be able to travel to many places during her lifetime. “My parents introduced me to the joys of travel, and that has continued throughout my adulthood.” There have been cruises to Hawaii, Alaska, and the Mediterranean, but also notable adventures such as attending the Vancouver World’s Fair and seeing the Royals, riding a donkey down the Grand Canyon, horseback riding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, skiing in Park City, Utah, are among unique experiences of a lifetime. However, for Cheryl, the most memorable was the trip to the Holy Land and Egypt in 1987.
Currently, Cheryl continues her ministry with Remember That Someone Cares, which is focused on remembering residents in the health care areas on their birthdays. She also keeps in touch with residents who are ill or in need of prayer and keeps others informed with emails and a published, weekly prayer list. She attends the Thursday morning Bible class and is learning to play Mahjong. “I especially enjoy walking around the beautiful grounds of Kirby,” says Cheryl.
Cheryl has this to say about her current life: “Kirby Pines is truly a family affair as my sister, Diane Talarico, moved here in 2017. Don and I became residents in 2019, and I’m especially grateful we were here during COVID and Don’s illness. As I have often said, the very best thing about Kirby is the people—where so many are kind, thoughtful, compassionate, and caring, not to mention talented.
Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your story and for being such an excellent role model for all who desire to “finish well”.
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines