The death in June of Cheryl Gumulauski has removed a dear friend to many of us. Cheryl lived in her adopted home of Coupeville on Whidbey Island in America's Washington State. She was a person of enthusiasm, immense generosity and great personal warmth. Her generosity was spread to family, friends, and those she felt needed it.
While many of us take passing interests, Cheryl only had passionate interests. Ireland was one of those many passions, and she read widely in Irish history and politics.
She was fascinated by her family history. Her mother's family had been in the Americas since the early days of white settlement, and before, having Scots, Cornish, Irish and native American ancestry. She enjoyed rooting round old graveyards seeking family graves. She was proud of an Irish woman relative. Her castle in the Midlands was being besieged. The besiegers threatened to hang her husband unless she surrendered. Cheryl's relative replied that she could always get another husband, but not another castle. Her father's family was Lithuanian, and she was only beginning researching them.
As a teenager she describes herself as being “hell on wheels” whom she would not have wished on anybody. She rarely attended school. Her alertness saved her from suffering the consequences. She caught her High School principal coming out of a hotel room with a woman who was not his wife. To copperfasten her safety, she knew the hookers the school attendance officer frequented.
Rather than attend school, she played cards on the beach; pool in bars all night; and sometimes took off for other parts of the country. While working with bootleggers in Kentucky, she sparked a major police manhunt.
After school she went to work for a man she discovered was involved with the Mafia. That led her at 23 to walk into a Navy recruiting office and ask: "If I join the Navy, is there any place you could send me where I can't be extradited?” The Navy obliged, and trained her in aircraft electrical repair. It did not, though, restrain her. While in the Phillipines she struck up a friendship with members of the (Communist) New People's Army. Despite all, she ended her career as a Chief Petty Officer, the second-highest non-commissioned rank.
Over the years she moved from being a liberal Democrat to being a Trump supporter. Through all her changes, displays of racism angered her.
During one part of her 24 years in the Navy she was stationed on Whidbey Island off Washington State. She liked the island and bought a condo there to which she retired with her cats and her dog Jack. On Whidbey she contributed to her community as one of a group opposing over-development on the island.
In the recent years she suffered a heart attack and other health issues. Unfortunately, she lacked culinary skills. She accepted lectures from me on the need to change her diet and stop smoking, but never got round to it.
Cheryl Renae Gumulauski was born in December 1963 in the US Naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, eldest child to Leon Gumulauski and his wife Diane (née Guy). After her father left the Navy, the family moved to first Miller then Michigan City, both in Indiana to the east of Chicago. She was educated at Wirt High School in Miller, then Elston High School in Michigan City.
She was predeceased by her sister Michele. She is survived by her mother Diane (Johnson), father Leon, brother Scott, stepsisters Kristen and Nyssa; stepbrothers Jon, Jason, Seth and Johnny; and niece Megan.
Cheryl Renae Gumulauski – December 18th 1963, June 7th 2020.
⏭ Anton McCabe is a journalist and author.