Treasure Chest Thursday: The Walk Home

John Terrence Cherry  (1907 – 1956)

The third of four children born to James W. and Frances (Gaffney) Cherry, John Terrence Cherry seems to have been named after his maternal grandfather (John Gaffney) and maternal great-grandfather (Terrence Quinn).

John Terrence Cherry


He was born between 1906 and 1907 in Conneaut, Ohio, and from family accounts, was a handsome and charming man who inherited the creative gene. He became a graphic artist and watercolorist.  He also was an art professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he lived with his maiden aunts, Lyle, Delia, Agnes, and Margaret Gaffney. Toward the end of his life, he moved back home to Conneaut with his mother, Frances (Gaffney) Cherry, where he lived until his death in 1956 at age 49.
My mother, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca, remembered him with fondness.  He was a regular visitor to the Schiavon home in Chicago, Illinois, and their summer cottage at Big Blue Lake, Michigan.
From all accounts, everyone loved him, though he never married. My godmother, Angelina (Ciliberto) Schiavon, once told me a story of his wicked sense of humor. She and her husband, my Uncle Tom Schiavon, were visiting the Schiavon to the Cherry home in Conneaut.  John offered to paint a portrait of Angie and invited her to his studio in the attic.  
As he worked, he looked skeptically from Aunt Angie to the picture.  “You’re too sweet to paint,” he said.  “You need to look at little meaner!”  As Aunt Angie laughed, he gave her a cigarette (though she didn’t smoke).  “Pretend you just shot someone and take a drag on that cigarette,” he suggested.  My aunt did her best to oblige.
Although John didn’t own a gun, he painted one into the picture.  Aunt Angie thought he must not have been satisfied with the result, because she never got to keep the painting. 
I have only seen two of John Cherry’s watercolors, and neither is a portrait. One belonged to my second cousin and was a scene of the view from the Cherry home on Mill Street in Conneaut, done in blues and browns.


The Walk Home, Conneaut, Ohio
Watercolor, John Cherry, date unknown.
My mother gave me the other watercolor many years ago. Shown above, it measures about 16″ x 20″ and depicts a procession of sorts by the Nickel Plate Railroad (NKP) workers trudging home through the snowy woods on a mid-winter’s day.  Many of these workers probably rented rooms from John’s maternal grandparents, John Francis and Bridget (Quinn) Gaffney, who built and ran the large Gaffney House, also on Mill Street.  
I imagine that this picture was special to John not only because of his grandparents’ home but because his own father, James W. Cherry, was an NKP railroad engineer.  It is special to me because it soothes me with a lasting and treasured connection to a loving family, my family. It hangs in my living room, hinting of stories yet to be discovered and beckoning me to a place from my family’s past I have never known but dream of visiting some day.  
For this, John Cherry, I will always be grateful to you.
Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully


4 Thoughts to “Treasure Chest Thursday: The Walk Home

  1. Linda, I was wondering if you were going to write more about your relative who taught at Case Western Reserve. That's quite the handsome photograph! And unusual anecdote. I wonder whatever became of that portrait attempt…

  2. I'm still searching for details on John Cherry's life, Jacqi. I think my mother could have told me a lot, but other than that, I am hitting a brick wall. I won't give up hope, because I think there's got to be something out there about him, just waiting to be found. Fingers crossed! I welcome your suggestions – you always seem to come up with great ideas.

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