Cheryl Ann Smalley

Cheryl Ann Smalley

Cheryl Ann Smalley

It’s hard to say goodbye to Cheryl Smalley who passed away in the early morning hours of Friday, February 24, 2017, after fighting a particularly virulent form of cancer.

No list or resume could do her justice. She was a primary health care provider who worked in low income clinics because she believed everyone should have access to health care.

She was also a whip-smart soul with red cowboy boots and a dry sense of humor who loved music and movies and a good glass of wine.

She worked as a Vista Volunteer in the south, driving back-roads with black and white organizers, cut cane with the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba, helped build houses in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and treated extremely poor patients in rural Honduras.

She lived a year in Paris in tumultuous 1968 just after the general strike, where

Cheryl Smalley

she smoked Gauloises and spoke fluent French and demanded the impossible.

Cheryl was a tireless activist but not some dour politico, and while she marched against the Vietnam War as well as Donald Trump in the last month of her life, she was also a painter and guitar player, a ringleader of friends and instigator of happy hour adventures.

She traveled the globe, living everywhere from Illinois to Paris to Vermont to Austin to Portland to Seattle. She visited the Normandy beaches where her father landed on D-Day plus 13, and took a handful of sand all the way home.

During the last week of her life, friends gathered around her bedside, helped her struggle with air hoses and morphine, and held her hand.

Cheryl Surfing

Cheryl Surfing

One night guitars were played and a great hootenanny broke out where everybody sang along around her bed, and although she was no longer able to communicate at length, she smiled and made it clear she loved the music. A couple of nights later, after an especially trying day, she passed in the early morning hours with friends by her side.

Cheryl is survived by her partner Jim Cullers, a great solid soul, her sister Jane, brother Tad, brother-in-law Heath, sister-in-law Karen, three nieces, a nephew, and Amy Ye, her “little sister” from Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program.

She leaves behind a great many friends all over the world who will miss her spirit and smile and voice that was sweet and grainy as the flesh of a pear. Cheryl’s annual birthday beach party cookout has always been a highlight of summer and a gathering of friends. This year at Golden Gardens on Saturday, July 29th, the tradition will continue as a celebration and a memorial to her life.

Peace to Cheryl.

5 Responses to “Cheryl Ann Smalley”

  • Saragale Tucker says:

    I’m so glad to hear these things about Cheryl, who was my friend at Uni High. We lost touch in the years we went away from Champaign-Urbana. When I was 12, Cheryl instructed me on passive resistance and we practiced dragging each other down the long hallway in my home. Cheryl was exceedingly thin during much of high school and her mother often packed extra, calorie laden food for her. (We had no cafeteria; we ate our brougth-lunches in the hallway or outside). One time her mother packed wedges of avocado for her. We were outside and she dropped one face down. An imp in me prompted me to leap on it full-force, squishing it into the sidewalk. I will never for get the look on her face!:) After she returned from France, she was top-model beautiful gorgeous. I had the experience of being trod on as men tried to get her attention. I am aware of several beautiful photographic images of her and also that Johnny Shahn did drawings and a sculpture of her. I hope whoever has these images appreciates their beauty and depth of the person who engendered them. Finally, I have particularly happy memories of the week Cheryl and I “switched homes” for a week the first semester of our senior year. I’m not sure how we got this idea, but it was EXTREMELY instructive to both of us. We had illusions about each other’s families that week dispelled. (believe me the parents did not do anything special for the visitor–we were often spending the night at each other’s houses so they were used to us being around. I think we got treated much the same as our switchee was.) CHERYL, you make me proud at the life you did! You inspire me! Thank you!!! Saragale Tucker (was called Saragale Boffi sub to sophomore year)

  • Michael Parenti says:

    Cheryl and I lived together for a number of years (on and off) in Vermont, New York, New Haven and elsewhere. She was a special person in all respects, a privilege and pleasure to have known her. I attempted to contact her just recently, not knowing that she had died. I am shocked and greatly saddened. There are not enough people like her in this world. My belated farewell to you, dear Cheryl. There will always be a place in my heart for you.

  • Sara Chilton Clausen says:

    I have just learned of Cheryl’s death and am so shocked. We were classmates and friends at Uni High. So many memories. Smoking cigarettes and getting sick. Eating dinner at the Corner Drugstore. Going to the Illini Union and trying to act cool. Although both of our fathers were professors, hers was an artist and mine was an engineer; I admired her Bohemian lifestyle enormously. She lived for a while in her basement to get away from her family, with whom she feuded throughout high school. (As an adult, of course, she loved them fiercely.) After college, when we were both back in Urbana, she asked me to share an apartment with her but I opted to get married instead. (In retrospect, it was the wrong choice.) We lost touch until, one day in the late 1990s, she walked into my office. It was so wonderful to see the magnificent person Cheryl had become. Despite a lifetime of experience with the range of human suffering, both her own and others, she was no cynic. She still believed in people and had great hope for the future. I mourn her passing.

  • T. Dwight Miller says:

    Being a former patient of Dr. Smalley’s, I just learned belatedly today that she has died and would like to add my perspective from that side of her life that she was a very good G.P. for me over many years at the 45th-Street then Country-Doctor clinics, always thinking outside the box, trying sincerely to solve medical problems even if they showed themselves only in disparate non-acute symptoms.

  • Angela Thorndyke says:

    I worked with Cheryl at PacMed as her her medical assistant and later behind the desk as an RN. She had so many wise words and one of the things I learned from her was to be very careful about jumping to conclusions when making a diagnosis—she was solid, careful and also funny. We enjoyed dressing up for Halloween at the clinic and I remember her gusto for travel, food and life. I also remember her telling me about her painting and that she had set up a studio in her house and I remember thinking that I wanted to someday do the same. Rest in Peace Cheryl, will miss you ! Angela Thorndyke Santa Fe, New Mexico

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