Thursday, October 04, 2001

Doug Cherry

A fitting memorial for his son

        It's impossible not to notice the perfect symbolism of the two new houses, being built side by side. Twins, you might say. Not exactly towers, just two stories tall. But they are mighty reminders of this country's decency.

        My tour guide is Doug Cherry, volunteer builder. And, yes, he is the father of Douglas MacMillan Cherry, who was killed Sept. 11 in New York City.

        The Saturday after his son died, Mr. Cherry came to this site. “I was trying to get my mind around something beyond grief.” So he taught a group of volunteers how to hang drywall in the future home of Juanita Hughes, single mother of two “really great” boys.

        “Nice, nice families,” he says about the people who will move into these houses.

        He has worked side by side with them. This is the way of Habitat for Humanity, the organization building the homes. When these are finished, it will be an even dozen for the Eastside Coalition, one of several Habitat affiliates whose mission is, “Building houses in partnership with God's people in need.”        

Getting a boost

Doug Cherry
        Since 1985, Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity has built 68 homes, sold to people who could never before afford one. With a down payment of 500 hours of their own labor, they then buy the house for essentially the cost of materials. The purchase is financed with no-interest loans, and labor is provided by volunteers.

        These two houses on Beresford Avenue in Walnut Hills are on a plot of land that was overgrown with scrub trees and bushes. Trash magnets. So, the neighborhood gets a little boost.

        And the “homeowner-partners” get a very big boost. A new home for their kids. A stake in the neighborhood. A long-term affordable mortgage, instead of rent that can go up faster than their income. Not to mention pride of ownership.

        These are nice houses. Solid. The volunteer workers may be amateurs, but the supervision is professional. The site manager is a retired builder. His crew during the week includes other retirees — a lawyer, an engineer, a couple of sales reps, including Mr. Cherry. On Saturday, they help supervise other volunteers. If you can't pound a nail — and Mr. Cherry is convinced that most everybody can — they'll assign you to writing letters or fixing lunch for the crews.

        (For information, or 621-4147.)        

Grief and shock

        “Women turn out to be some of our best workers,” he says, remembering a woman whose husband gave her a circular saw last Christmas. He laughs and pushes his ball cap to the back of his head. I like him very much and can't help wondering how he's managing to finish the job he started.

        “Well, this is more than just time-consuming. It's a real outlet. I feel that I can contribute. Does that make sense?”

        It does indeed.

        His son, he says, planned a trip to Mexico in February to work on a similar project there. His family will go now, in honor of young Doug Cherry. A wonderful husband. A lot of fun, his friends say. “An awesome father,” according to his wife. Just 38 years old.

        Many words will be said and flags waved in honor of those who died Sept. 11. Plaques and memorials. Ribbons and testimonials. Grief and shock expressed in a thousand ways.

        Doug Cherry's father has chosen to build something.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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