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In Memory

K E Sherry Sedlak

K E Sherry Sedlak

Sherry's brother, Eric, has submitted the following information regarding Sherry's passing:

We lost Sherry on December 24 at 935AM PST.  She was holding my hand.
As most of you know, Sherry had breast cancer seven years ago.  As five years had passed, we thought that she was in the clear, but a year ago she learned that it had spread.  She has spent much of the last year and a half either fighting it  or fighting other ailments that stood in the way of fighting it.  Phil, Kathy, Ellen, Stewart and Chloe have all made trips to see her.  Fortunately, the pain medication was well-regulated and she was generally able to converse (subject to hearing limitations) and enjoy visits as well as cards, notes and flowers that many people sent, until the last few hours.  Junko, Hana, Rita and I have been in Palo Alto for about ten days (minus an intervening business trip for me) hoping to spend Christmas with Sherry.  At least Sherry made it to Christmas, Japan time.

I am sorry to share this on Christmas Eve, and hope that you and yours have a good holiday.  We will keep you posted.

Eric has informed us of the arrangements for a Memorial Service:

The Pittsburgh memorial for Sherry will most likely be on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 10AM at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, just off Route 19 south of Pittsburgh, followed by lunch.  We hope that you will be able to join us in honoring and remembering Sherry.

With best wishes for the new year.

Eric has also shared the Memorial Service Introduction:

Opening by Eric Sedlak

Sherry came into the world kicking and screaming and did her level best to go out the same way.

Sherry was born in Uniontown PA on October 18, 1947 to William J. Sedlak, then a Sunoco dealer and Rita K. Sedlak, well-read, quintessential post-war housewife, daughter of the owner of the leading men's clothing store in what was then a prosperous coal mining center. At the time she was born, she had two siblings, Phil, then 8, and Ellen, then 5. Sherry's original name was Katherine Sherry (after her maternal grandmother) Sedlak. With her confirmation name, Elizabeth, she switched it around so that it became KESS, like "kiss."  

Like the rest of us, Sherry is half Czech, a quarter German, a quarter Irish, maybe part Croatian, French or Jewish, ¾ negotiator, one half monologue writer, one third sympathetic friend, 150% a truly good person, in any case, many things to many people.

Sherry attended a Catholic primary school, St. John's, in Uniontown. One of Phil and Ellen's strongest memories was of a shy little girl holding a kitten in the back yard of 48 Charles Street.

Sherry was a kind little girl, and my father had fond memories of Sherry going door to door to help him sell light bulbs to benefit the blind charities of the Lions Club. If you have ever seen the lion on the shelf of her apartment, that was from my father to Sherry, many years later.

My father was very good to Sherry, and she was happy with the special attention focused upon her as the youngest. She was spared some of the rivalry between Phil and Ellen.

Just before she turned 11, her world changed. Daddy took her to Gettysburg, just the two of them. I wish I knew where those pictures are – she looked so happy. Then, in September, there was a new baby. I joke that she tried to smother me, but by all reports she was actually nice to me.

By that time, the family had moved to Mt Lebanon, a suburb outside Pittsburgh. Sherry had friends, mostly girls and graduated with honors.

For some reason, she didn't go to college, going first to work at a jewelry shop (maybe she thought it was like McDonalds and you could have all you wanted for free).

After a few years, she moved to Washington DC, taking the first job as a law firm receptionist, by coincidence at the law firm for which I now work. She wanted to be a model, but had a nose like mine as a result of various breathing problems. Some of the breathing problems were corrected, and that helped in other ways as well. She never made it as a fashion model, but suddenly she started sending us clippings from the society pages of the Washington Post, in the company of tennis players who were famous at the time, among others. My father commented that she was "going to catch a chest cold wearing that table cloth thing"

I think that she hit her stride socially in Washington.  She was invited to a lot of parties and had many suitors (one applicant was subjected to playing chess with her ten year old brother followed by a cheery "good night!"). I seem to remember lots of hot pants and halter tops. Again, I took from his comments that my father was afraid of her catching a cold in the air conditioning.

In 1974, Sherry moved to Palo Alto for a change of scenery, initially staying with Phil and his then wife Lynn. She enrolled in Foothill College, and we were very proud that she was taking a further step, but then moved back into the working world. Around that time, she also met Walter, the love of her life. Walter, recently out of Stanford, was very good to Sherry. We are very grateful for every thing Walter did for Sherry.
They were very good together. Walter took her dancing (I hope that Sherry was better at it than the rest of the family), introduced many of his Stanford and other friends, many of whom became life long friends of Sherry. I regret that we could not track all of them down to be with us here today... Walter was both very good to Sherry and very good for Sherry. He indulged her and encouraged her. I am light on the details; I didn't meet Walter until the mid 1980s. But in any case, Sherry's letters, and this may surprise you, but they were lengthy, said "Walter, Walter, Walter .. . . '" boyfriend, companion, partner, best friend, all rolled into one.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Sherry worked at Capital Preservation Fund, moving into an office manager role, which we applauded, and later worked at Whitmore Kay & Stevens and Whitmore Johnson & Bolanos. She developed a wider and wider network in the area. I apologize for not chasing everyone down, but her address books had the home numbers of waitresses at restaurants, shop clerks, she befriended a lot of people.

Many people found Sherry funny – she was often joking, tried very hard to be kind to people. She sent huge volumes of cards, and received many in return. She was concerned about the well-being of her friends and their spouses and children. With an almost photographic memory for detail, she knew birthdays, the details of separations, court dates, interrelationships. Maybe she should have worked for the CIA or have gotten a job with HP as a database.

In the mid 90s, her various health problems caught up with her, and she has been living on disability. She managed to make two overseas trips – to Mexico with Walter and to Tokyo for our wedding. She managed to get around to many shops in the area, benefitting from the largess and friendship of many people. Particularly recently, when her illnesses have become overwhelming, many, many people have done favors for her. There is no master list. I have left dozens off. Among those present, I'd like to thank in particular Mary, who helped Sherry with her hearing aids and issues, Kristin, who was a family friend in the sense of big Sherry's family at holidays and special occasions, the caregivers and nurses who have been with Sherry over the last few months, Yvonne and her sons, who have become Sherry's grandchildren, and Walter, who did more for Sherry than anyone could be expected to, and then some.

Seven years ago, Sherry had breast cancer, with a mastectomy. The years passed, and we thought that she was out of the woods. Early last fall, we learned that the cancer had re-emerged. She started treatment again, and parts of the cancer were beaten back, but not all of it. In September, her doctor e-mailed me and told me on a call that Sherry had weeks or months. Sherry had lost several inches of height but not her fighting spirit. I took that to be four to twelve weeks. She got fifteen.

Notwithstanding Sherry's protests, I think that virtually every nurse, hospital worker and doctor was trying his or her best to help Sherry. The individuals are quite dedicated. The system, however, is awful. Lack of coordination and record sharing, the problems in even getting a non-driver to the hospital in America, cause a lot more pain and suffering than they have to. I won't make a political speech, but it doesn't have to work this badly, and it doesn't have to cost this much.

Sherry started to slide faster about a month ago. The medication made her less and less able to converse, and even to read. She was very happy to receive cards, calls, and particularly visits. Her eyes lit up when people visited.  Phil, Ellen, Stewart, Chloe, Junko, Hana, Rita and I made several trips.

I last saw her happy face on Thursday morning when Junko, Hana, Rita and I left for the day. She was sleeping when we returned a few times Thursday night. Friday morning, I got "the call" and walked over to her house. I took her hand, and she sort of took mine. Fifteen minutes later, her breathing spread out and got shallower, there had been a long pause, after a moment I no longer felt the weak pulse.

Her spirit rose up out of her body, and now she has finally become what she always wanted to be -- a star.



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01/04/11 08:07 PM #1    

Janet M Datesh (Nave)

wow--she lead a wonderful life full of adventure and experiences.  And had lots of people who loved her in the end.  Lucky lady.  Rest in peace. 

01/03/12 07:31 PM #2    

Therese M Michaud (Najarian)

Hello Eric,

I'm not sure if you even remember me, but I was a friend of Sherry's at St. Bernards Grade School through Mellon Jr. High and on into Mt. Lebanon.  

At this time I still have some memories of our growing up together. I remember visiting her house and wishing I had as many clothes as she had.  Being vertically challenged myself I envied her height.  Sherry really loved to dress up.  You mentioned how she always wanted to be a model or a star.  It sounds like she absolutely became one with all the friends that you mentioned in your ulogy.

Over the years I tried several times to look her up online but was not successful.  I never did attend any of the reunions.  Please know that I've always remembered her and our childhood friendship.

I also remember when she came to my house in the morning in order for us to walk to school together I would come downstairs to her standing in the foyer holding her books in such a manner thangt showed off her pose for any potential modeling position. 

When my parents moved to Washington DC I followed with my other siblings and ended up working at the Washington Post where we were able to get in touch and have some lunchtime reunions.  I was married in 1968 and of course as life would have it we went our seperate ways.

Again, my sympathy goes out to you and your family. I will always remember with great fondness Sherry.

Therese Michaud Najarian

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