You remember the day when you learn a certain lesson.
One of mine occurred in the late 1990s. Anita Decker called to ask whether she and Cheri Folk could come by my office. I said yes.
In agreeing to that meeting, I realized that whatever it was they wanted, I would say “yes.” That was because of their credibility and my respect for both of them.
In that moment I realized that charitable giving is relationship-driven. Getting to know Cheri, who died last week at the age of 74, was one of the delights of the long campaign to acquire and restore the Liberty Theatre.
My mother and Cheri came of age in different eras, but they were a lot alike. While my father was the prominent figure in our family’s newspapers, my mother had the head for business. And like Cheri, mother was largely self-taught. During my orientation to Astoria in 1988, my mother signaled her admiration for Cheri.
The board of directors that drove the Liberty Theatre’s restoration was a gathering of strong personalities. It was an example of how people of often different political inclinations get to know each other well by working for a shared community goal.
During one of my many conversations with Cheri, I joked that she should write for The Astorian’s editorial page. “You wouldn’t like that, Steve Forrester!” she responded.
Over a period of some five years, Cheri and I made the pitch for gifts to numerous prospects. As we walked them through the bedraggled, unrestored building, Cheri’s refrain was, “Can’t you just see what this could become?”
Cheri succeeded me as president of Liberty Restoration Inc. Her contributions to what I call the civic furniture of Astoria were several and widespread. She belied the image of the banker as an impersonal and distant figure.
In Oregon banking, she broke glass ceilings and earned the respect of her peers in a 36-year career. Without a college degree, she quipped to a colleague, “I’m the girl at school who was good at math.”
When the Bank of Astoria merged with Columbia Bank in 2004, she and another groundbreaker, Melanie Dressel, head of the Tacoma, Washington, parent bank, handled the transition. Dressel died at age 64 in 2017.
If you stay in one place long enough — especially in a small town — you meet a lot of people. Many of them make a lasting impression. Some of those acquaintances — fleeting or long term — change you. Cheri made that kind of difference in my life. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know this remarkable woman.