After a life of dedicated service, Cheryl Kern-Simirenko, an advocate for our community and dear friend to many, passed away on July 24, 2022. Cheryl grew up here in Stanley and graduated in 1963 as valedictorian from McDonell Catholic High School in Chippewa Falls. She pursued higher education enthusiastically, earning degrees in Russian, Russian History, and Library Science. Her work as an academic librarian and administrator took her all over the United States; from Syracuse, New York to Eugene, Oregon and many places in between.
After several decades away, improving library service and information science for students and universities, she returned to Stanley in 2013. Although happily “retired,” Cheryl turned her considerable talents towards serving our Stanley community. She generously offered her time and expertise in particular to our public library and historical society through countless volunteer hours and dedicated advocacy. Cheryl liked to say that she began her library career in 7th grade when Director Edith Knilans recruited her to work at the D.R. Moon Memorial library. Our library summer programs may be a fixture now, but Cheryl was the one who helped Director Mabel MacFarlane create and run the first-ever summer library program here in Stanley.
Cheryl didn’t forget her roots here at the library; in fact she celebrated and strengthened her connections to our library and community through years serving on the library board. Cheryl also contributed wholeheartedly to the work of the Stanley Area Historical Society in a myriad of ways. Her leadership and efforts were key in major digitization projects for the museum. She also served as copy editor for the newsletter, and she was committed to providing an educational interning experience in the museum for students from UW-Eau Claire.
During the short time I had the privilege of knowing her, Cheryl’s wisdom, humor, and experience were an incredible resource to me. Through the ups and downs of these past few tumultuous years, Cheryl was someone I relied on for her generous insight and support as a fellow librarian. When she stepped down from the board in June, Cheryl sent me a card of thanks and encouragement. “I think the board “struck gold” when we hired you,” she wrote—but really, I had struck gold to have begun my library career here in Stanley, working together with her and the rest of the board.
Cheryl believed in “paying it forward” and the primary importance of education. She established an endowment fund for college-bound McDonell graduates with the Community Foundation of Chippewa County in memory of her parents. The first James and Margaret Kern Scholarship was awarded in 2020 and continues annually. Cheryl said in a video produced by the Community Foundation in 2021, “You can’t take it with you when you go, but you can have your charitable giving outlive you. For Good. Forever.” Cheryl’s memory and impact will certainly live on through the difference she made in the lives of so many as her legacy continues.
Cheryl was preceded in death by her parents, and her husband in 1979. Survivors include her devoted and much-loved step-daughters, Tania Simirenko and Lisa Simirenko, both of Oakland CA, and two beloved granddaughters, Dr. Kaitlin Trexberg and Emma Fronberg, Davis CA. As per Cheryl’s wishes, no services will be held. Memorial donations may be made to the Stanley Area Historical Society or the D.R. Moon Memorial Library. Thank you to the family and David Jankowski for providing additional information used in this memorial.