CHERI HUNTER AND FELICIA HUNTER
What do you say about someone who allows you to defy gravity? To propel yourself -- through your own capacity, under your own terms -- to such heights that you're able to hug the clouds, kiss the stars,
keep counsel with the moon,
dance with the sun.
That is what Cheri did for me.
She was kind, giving and generous. She was also very smart, and very talented. Because of that, her love and support were even more valued.
Of course, we loved each other as sisters. Actually, I shouldn’t say “of course,” because I -- all of us -- have encountered people who seem to prefer negative, toxic relationships. They work hard to attain and sustain dysfunctionality. With relatives, friends and even strangers, they feel they must deflate anyone experiencing joy. They offer nasty comments when a compliment would be more in order. They try to derail any kind of positive progress. When help is needed, they do their best to try to hinder.
Cheri and I could never understand those types of people. That just was not part of our upbringing. We were brought up to encourage, and to help if we could.
We’ve had many experiences together, collaborated on many projects together. I can say, without a doubt, that Fannie Lou would not have evolved the way it did without Cheri. The naysayers would have tried to ground it long before it got to the point where it was ready to be presented to a public audience.
And many of them did. But, thank goodness, I had Cheri to turn to. She was the one I could turn to to bounce ideas off of -- try out a new line of dialogue or a new song lyric -- and get honest, constructive feedback. When the latest skeptic would offer his/her take on the impossibility of doing something positive, I could laugh it off with Cheri and keep right on doing.
She had a beautiful singing voice. We would often burst into song spontaneously, harmonizing with each other, ad libbing, and just having a beautiful time sharing the love of music together. Everybody is good at something, and that's something that came fairly naturally to both of us.
When it came time to assemble a cast and other team members for the first and subsequent public performances of Fannie Lou, I would always ask Cheri what she wanted to do, where she wanted to focus her talents. “Anywhere you need me,” would always be her reply. And she absolutely meant it. She didn’t desire the spotlight. Neither one of us did. We just enjoyed the process of creating art, and the personal accomplishment of bringing that creation to fruition. It was a blessing to be able to use and utilize the gifts we were God-given, and we enjoyed that very much.
Because she was my sister, I was reluctant to cast Cheri in an onstage lead role for Fannie Lou, lest anyone say she only got the part because she was my sister. I had finally come to my senses with a “Scenes and Songs” production of Fannie Lou that was to have taken place in a Broadway theater in February 2014. That never happened. Cheri passed away
Feb. 20, just four days before that performance was to have taken place.
Her passing came as a great shock. Even though she was seriously ill, Cheri fought hard to overcome the devastating disease that ruthlessly claims so many. In the last weeks of her life, while in the hospital, she repeatedly said, “I have to get out of here. We have things to do.”
We certainly did. Oh, the plans we had. As much as we had done, we were looking forward to that much more, and then some. As we used to like to say, we were just getting warmed up!
When other people said no, you can’t, Cheri said yes, you can. She always tried to help, not harm; lift up, not pull down. She was a kindred spirit. I wish we had more Cheris in the world.
At the time of her passing, Cheri was preparing to sing the role of Laura for “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou.” In her absence, I perform the role for the Carnegie Hall production. I think -- no, I know -- that’s what she would have wanted.
I miss her terribly. But I feel her spirit. Inspiring, guiding, elevating, uplifting. And, always, encouraging the defiance of gravity.
With great love