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In Memory

Cheryl Burke

After a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s, Cheryl Burke passed away on November 10, 2018, one week before her 71st birthday.  Cheryl majored in French in Oberlin, received a J.D. degree from Northeastern University in 1973, and practiced law in the Washington, D.C., area.  She is survived by her only son, Andy Tonken, a wedding coordinator from Falls Church, Virginia.

Cheryl was a notable attorney working for the rights of public housing folks. Her Alzheimer’s took her out of action for the last six years and her accomplishments are lost, but here is a newspaper clip from 1983 in which she is mentioned and here is another from 1986. (Submitted by Terry Sweetser)


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02/02/19 06:25 PM #1    

Ross Bailey

Cheryl was my high school classmate as well as my Oberlin classmate.  We had lost touch over the years.  I was shocked and saddened to learn here of her passing. 

02/03/19 03:36 PM #2    

Lunetta Bennett (Knowlton)

Cheryl lived at Talcott as did I.  We spent quite a bit of time together freshman year.  I will always remember her as a beautiful, vivacious young woman with lots of plans for her future.  I am very familiar with Alzheimer's Disease (my mother, aunt, and cousin suffered from it) and I am so sorry she spent so many of her later years experiencing it's devastation.  I hope that her son remembers the good times I'm sure he had with her.  Lunetta Bennett Knowlton



02/07/19 09:04 PM #3    

Frank Sweetser

I have been thinking about Cheryl a lot since her death last year. We were close friends during Junior and Senior year at Oberlin. Together we formed a Planned Parenthood group at the college which helped ensure reproductive rights to students and townies. Cheryl was tireless in this work and personally escorted scores of young women to safe clinics in Cleveland and beyond. She said it inspired her to enter the legal profession.

She charmed her friends with colorful stories of army brat life and her father's ("the Col.") passionate but ultimately unsuccessful quest to get his first star. Mostly we thought these were made-up tales. That is until we met the Col. at graduation. He gave us a seminar on the proper installation of toilet paper so that it would always curl over the top of the roll.

During senior year Cheryl became engaged to our classmate Steven Brody. They made a fairy tale couple zooming around town in Steven's green MGB-GT. The pair entertained many of us in Cheryl's lovely one bedroom apartment right across the street from the College bowling alley. They were generous and frequent hosts. I loved that place. My bride, Leslie Kohman ('71) and I sublet it from Cheryl during the summer of 1969. We saw the moon landing there on a tiny Sony TV sitting on the kitchen table.

The newlywed Brodys and Sweetsers moved to the Boston area for graduate school and spent many happy times together until our marriages broke up and we all moved on. Sadly, Steve died within a few years. Cheryl went on to be a successful attorney in Washington, but we lost touch some years ago.

I wish I could be at her memorial service coming up this Saturday (February 9, 2019). I would have liked to have met her son. I'm sure Andy knows how to correctly install a roll of toilet paper.

Blessings Cheryl for a good life well lived and loved,

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