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Cherie Mashburn Stephens


Cherie Ann Mashburn Stephens was born on February 12, 1930 in Glendale, California to Millard Fillmore Mashburn and Wilhelmina Shryver Mashburn. She liked to tell the story of her parents’ meeting when her 29-year-old father, a recent arrival to Los Angeles via Tennessee, delivered groceries to the rented rooms occupied by 19-year-old Wila, who, with her mother, had just moved to Los Angeles from Spokane, WA. Smitten with each other, they married soon after that meeting in 1915. Together they had three children: Stanton (b. 1918), Paul (b. 1928) and Cherie. When Cherie was just 9 years old, her mother died of pneumonia, a devastating loss that reverberated through Cherie’s life. After her mother’s death, Cherie’s father stayed in Los Angeles to continue supporting the family as a vicepresident at Gude’s Shoes, while Cherie moved with her brother, Paul, and her grandmother, Helen “Nellie” Ware Shryver Shults, to Palm Springs. They lived at 412 Arenas Drive where her grandmother ran a boarding house, often housing the wives of military men training nearby for desert duty in World War II. Cherie survived a serious accident in high school–she was ejected from the rumble seat of a car when it was hit by another car. Her quick-thinking friends retrieved the tip of Cherie’s nose from the sandy site of the accident before driving her to the hospital where it was surgically reattached. Cherie was in a coma for two

weeks and coped with memory loss as she recovered. Her confidence was boosted by winning first place in the Rotary Club speech contest after intensive coaching with the school librarian, Susan Talmadge, an important friend to Cherie. Susan introduced her to the playwrights Ibsen and Shaw, took her to the Pasadena Playhouse and helped her develop a sartorial style that became a calling of Cherie’s for the rest of her life. Cherie received a monetary settlement after the car accident—enough for her to seriously consider pursuing her love of music by following the advice of her voice teacher that she study in Italy. But her father was reluctant to let his only daughter travel alone so far from home and, after graduating from Palm Springs High School in 1947, Cherie enrolled at UCLA. Later she transferred to UC San Francisco School of Nursing. Her interest in singing led her to join a foursome of nursing students who raced over to the UC Berkeley Greek Theater to perform at an evening football rally prior to the Big Game of ‘52. And that is where Phil saw Cherie for the first time. On January 30, 1954, three days after

her nursing school graduation, Cherie married the love of her life, Philip Hamilton Stephens. Cherie took her first nursing job with the Visiting Nurse Association, beginning her career in public health by caring for patients in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Cherie’s career went on to include serving as nursing coordinator for Head Start in San Mateo County in the 1960s and as the immunization coordinator for San Mateo County in the 1970s and 80s. Cherie and Phil had two children, Tracy Ann, born in 1957 in Oakland, and Norman Raymond, born in 1960 in Menlo Park. During the decade of the 1960s, Cherie and her family lived at 1064 Tehama Ave in Menlo Park, where great friendships were forged with neighbors. Cherie continued to pursue her love of singing with the Sweet Adelines, a group of women singing barbershop harmony, and on Sundays at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, where her lovely alto voice enriched the congregation’s hymns. She and Phil also taught Sunday School there. In 1963, Cherie’s family became one of the millions of American families affected by gun violence: in a fit of anger, her sisterin-law, Marion, shot Cherie’s brother, Stanton, and then herself. Marion died and Stanton was permanently disabled. Cherie, Phil and their children relocated to Long Beach for several months to support her brother during his hospitalization and to care for her teenage nieces and nephews. Cherie was a lifelong advocate for strict gun regulation.

The family embarked on a great adventure when Phil’s work with Ampex Corporation took them to Tokyo, Japan in 1970. While Phil’s days were full with his job, Cherie faced the daunting difficulties of being an expat wife, learning how to run a household in a foreign country; everything from driving to grocery shopping presented challenges. As she mastered her life in Japan, Cherie took on new studies, including oil painting, Japanese language, and Ikebana flower arranging. Friendships with other expats from throughout the world flourished. Among her volunteer commitments, Cherie was chair of the American School in Japan Chrysanthemum Ball, served on the rector search committee for St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and founded a nursery school at the church that continues today. Cherie and Phil returned from Tokyo in 1976 and settled in Palo Alto at 145 Hemlock Court. After retiring from her public health nursing career, Cherie volunteered with the Palo Alto Public Library; she was constantly reading, particularly books about history and biographies. Cherie traveled to Europe with Phil and other times with friends, pursuing her interest in the genealogy of her family on some of those trips. Tracy and Cherie took a trip to Tennessee to

explore her father’s early life there. She and Phil enjoyed many trips to visit Norman and his wife in the high desert of southern California, which reminded Cherie of her childhood in Palm Springs. Cherie and Phil were active in the Santa Clara County Democratic Party and she, Phil and Norm took a memorable trip to Washington, DC to observe the workings of the American government. Cherie was an avid gardener, creating beautiful gardens in the atrium and backyard of their home. As a skilled home chef (self-taught with the help of the original Julia Child TV show which Cherie watched always taking notes), Cherie cooked a delicious, several-course meal for her family almost every day of her adult life. Cherie took delight in her grandchildren and they spent many happy weeks with her and Phil in Palo Alto during their childhoods.

In 2009 Cherie and Phil moved to Walnut Creek. They were grateful to find Dr. Julie Cahill who blended medical expertise with genuine warmth and welcome humor. Dr. Cahill guided them through Cherie’s many medical challenges in her last years. In February 2013, Cherie relocated to

Marin County to be closer to Tracy and family and entered hospice care. On March 29, 2013 Cherie died in Corte Madera. Cherie is survived by her husband, Phil; and children, Tracy (living in Mill Valley) and Norman (living in Inyokern); her son-in-law, Brian Haughton; her daughterin-law, Jirawan Stephens; three granddaughters, Katharine, Stephanie, and Jacqueline Haughton, and one step-granddaughter, Nongdea.


Cherie directed that her body be donated to UCSF’s Willed Body Donation Program. Speaking recently to the program, Tracy mentioned that her mother was a graduate of the UCSF School of Nursing. The administrator observed, “And now she is returning to teach.” In the spirit of Cherie’s decision to support her school, if you would like to make a donation in Cherie’s honor, please consider: UCSF School of Nursing: Box 0248, San Francisco, CA 94143-0248

It had to be you It had to be you, it had to be you I wandered around and finally found a someone who could make me be true, could make me be blue‌ And even be glad just to be sad, thinking of you Some others I've seen might never be mean might never be cross or try to be boss but they wouldn't do For nobody else gave me a thrill with all your faults I love you still It had to be you wonderful you It had to be you

CMStephens obit  

written by Tracy Stephens Haughton

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