Portsmouth. Thomas Mack Cherry went to be with his Lord and Savior on August 27, 2013. He was at home surrounded by his family. Born May 18, 1935 in Everetts, NC to the late John Wiley Cherry and Sally Grimes Cherry, Mack was the youngest of 12 children. He is survived by his sister Mary Alice Stalls of Everetts, NC. He is also survived by his best friend, partner and soul mate, JoAnn Cherry of Robersonville, NC with whom he treasured every day of their 55 years of marriage. Left to cherish their special memories of Mack are his devoted daughters Janet Cherry Myers and her husband Jay of Chesapeake, VA, Jill Cherry Crews and her husband Jim of Richmond, VA, grandsons Mathew Myers, Alex Fiala, Josh Myers, J.D. Crews, and great granddaughter Ava Fiala.
Mack was from a modest upbringing and worked during high school in a small grocery store once owned by his father. According to his wife, JoAnn, he made the best fountain Coca Cola in the County. Mack’s family never owned a car so he hitchhiked everywhere, including visits to his best girl JoAnn. Mack played 4 years of baseball and basketball at Robersonville High School where he pitched a no-hitter his senior year. After graduation he attended ECU where he continued baseball, pitching for 4 years, playing semi-pro ball two summers culminating in the offer of a professional contract after his sophomore year. Mack taught and coached baseball for 2 years in Williamston, NC before moving to Portsmouth, VA. It was here that he began his Portsmouth educational career at Harry Hunt Junior High School, first as a teacher, next as an Assistant Principal and then as Principal of both Port Norfolk and Academy Park Elementary Schools.
During his career, Mack earned his Master’s Degree and Advanced Certificate from William and Mary. He returned to Harry Hunt Jr. High School for one year as Principal. At the encouragement and support of his mentor, Dr. M.E. Alford, Mack took a sabbatical to complete his Doctorate in Education at UVA-Charlottesville.
In 1973 Mack was named Principal of Manor HS in Portsmouth and served for 4 years. He moved to Cradock HS as Principal after which he became Director of Elementary Ed and then moved on to Staff Development with the Portsmouth City School Board. Before retiring from the school system, Mack served as Superintendent of Portsmouth Public Schools. Always an educator, Mack then continued his career at ODU, first as a full-time assistant professor and then part-time as an adjunct professor. His last educational venture was working with the career switcher program at ODU. Mack served 50 years in public education. His students, teachers, fellow administrators and all who served with him remember him as the most gentle, kind and fair person they had ever known.
An avid sports fan, both as a spectator and participant, Mack and his wife JoAnn enjoyed tennis, golf and social activities with their friends at Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club and Nags Head Golf Links and could always be seen cutting a rug on the dance floor. They also loved spending time with family and friends at the Outer Bank.
His devotion to his wife, children, family, friends and community was surpassed only by his devotion to his faith and his God. A faithful Christian servant who gave unselfishly of his time, talents and resources, Mack was an active member of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, VA for 45 years. There he served as a devoted Sunday School teacher, Lay Leader and an active member of numerous committees. While in the Outer Banks, Mack and JoAnn worshiped at Kitty Hawk UMC. They built lasting, meaningful relationships with members of both of their church families. Mack was a long-time member of the Portsmouth Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow and an active worker in the annual Rotary picnic. He also served on many Rotary committees, such as programs, scholarship, meals on wheels and the dictionary project, which he loved because it provided dictionaries for every 3rd grader in public and private schools.
A modest and humble man of few words, every word was a kind one. Mack treated everyone with respect and always saw the good in every thing and every person. When speaking of Mack, most start with “He is such a good man.” To know him was truly to love him and just a few of the words used to describe him are kind, dignified, compassionate, caring and patient. He was the best husband, father, grandfather and friend and had a tremendous impact on so many lives in his 78 years.
A newspaper quote from his baseball days at East Carolina describes Mack well - “He is very effective in clutches and seems to throw best when the chips are down.” Mack had his share of trials but always kept a positive outlook and had the faith and determination to persevere. His most recent courageous battle with cancer was another testament to his strength. He never complained and continued to fight every step of the way. The Cherry family would like to express their appreciation to Dr. Reymond Pascual, Dr. Daniel Atienza, Dr. James Stewart and Bon Secours Hospice for their devoted care during his illness. The family is also grateful to family, friends and church family who supported them with their prayers, calls, cards, visits, meals and more. A special thanks to Debbie Baker, Tommy and Rita Vaughan and Janie Yattaw who drove JoAnn and Mack to Johns Hopkins Hospital and stayed with them for various surgeries, procedures and doctor’s visits.
Family visitation will be held at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 5615 Portsmouth Boulevard, Portsmouth, VA 23701 on Friday, August 30th from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. A memorial service for Mack will also be held at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church on Saturday, August 31st at 2:00 p.m. Sturtevant Funeral Home, Portsmouth Blvd. Chapel is handling arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in honor of Mack to St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.