Richard A. "Dick" Cherry, 83, died Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Kane Community Hospital, with his loving daughter Karen by his side.Â
Dick was born May 2, 1930, in Johnsonburg, the son of the late Patsy and Theresa (Steinbach) Cherry.
Dick married the love of his life, Pearl Bean, on Sept. 27, 1951. She survives.
Dick was the fourth of 11 children, and although his parents were hardworking people, he grew up poor. He spent the early years of his life living with his numerous brothers and sisters in a tiny house on the "Italian Flats" in Johnsonburg. He wore hand-me-down clothes and fought for every meal.Â
At the age of 14 he began sneaking into the local bars and pool hall to play pool. He found that he had a knack for the game. Before long, he was skipping school on paper mill payday so that he could take the workers' paychecks.Â
Vowing to never be poor again, Dick dropped out of school and began supporting himself by playing pool and doing construction work. In his early 20s, he caught the attention of one of the managers of the Rust Engineering Company of Pittsburgh. Apparently recognizing that he was no ordinary man, Rust Engineering offered Dick the position of lead foreman on a multi-million dollar construction project in Erie. Rust's crews initially balked at the idea of taking orders from a short and scrawny Italian from Johnsonburg, but he quickly won them over as only he could. His first job was to inform the current foreman, a man he described as "6'8" tall and 280 pounds of solid muscle," that he was taking over the crews. When he refused to step down, Dick removed him from the job site by throwing him through the nearest fence. The rest of the crew quickly realized that Dick was in charge. Dick then showed that he could be as generous as he could be mean - rehiring the former foreman as his second-in-command. Dick then brought numerous friends and family members to Erie, offering jobs to anyone who was willing to work.
After the project in Erie was completed, Dick returned to Johnsonburg, taking a job at the paper mill. Quickly realizing that factory work was not for him, he quit after only two weeks on the job. But getting a full-time, well-paying job at the Johnsonburg Paper Mill was a big accomplishment for a poor Italian immigrant from Johnsonburg, and Dick's father, Patsy, was furious with him. He told Dick, "You do not quit a job at the paper mill!" But Dick wasn't interested. He had already arranged to buy what was to become the Cavalier Bar (later Chongo's) on Center Street. Dick's powerful personality made the rough and tumble bar into a huge success - and made it one of the most infamous barrooms in Western Pennsylvania.
After running the Cavalier Bar for 10 years, Dick handed the reins over to his family so that he could start the Cavalier Roofing Company. Dick started Cavalier Roofing with nothing more than a small truck, a few mops, and a few buckets of tar, and built it into one of the largest and most successful commercial roofing companies in Pennsylvania. Dick was one of the first in the country to realize that the future of commercial roofing was not hot tar roofs, but rubber sheet roofing. He again turned on his unmistakable charm, dazzled the Carlisle Tire and Rubber Company, and obtained the exclusive rights to install and distribute Carlisle Rubber Sheet Roofing in Western Pennsylvania. Today, nearly every commercial and industrial building in the area has a roof installed by the Cavalier Roofing Company. Cavalier continues to be a success to this day, and is now under the leadership of Dick's son Daniel, and his grandson Dick III.
Dick wasn't just a successful businessman. He was also a lifelong sportsman. He played for the Johnsonburg Shamrocks, an accomplished semi-professional football team in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Dick also sponsored baseball and softball teams throughout his life, leading numerous teams to state championships as the starting pitcher. He is also likely the only person known to have beaten an orangutan in a boxing match.Â
Although Dick's reputation as a brawler and tough guy was unquestionable, it was his magnetic personality that made him legendary.
Many of Dick's friends share similar stories about the first time they met him. Whether they made a bad call at a softball game, didn't follow orders on the job, or drank a few too many at the Cavalier - they all ended up with a broken nose or black eye, courtesy of Dick. Yet somehow, by the sheer force of his personality, he was able to turn those people into his lifelong friends.
In his later years, he enjoyed taking regular trips to Niagara Falls and Salamanca, hanging out with the guys at the Uni-Mart, and spending time with his grandchildren. He loved making Brittany drive his car, and making boats for the kittens with Kieley.
Dick also served on the board of directors for the Area Transportation Authority, the Elk County Housing Authority, and the Johnsonburg Municipal Authority.
In addition to his wife, Pearl, he is survived by three children, Daniel Cherry, Karen (Jake) Fedus, and Lori (Robert) Challingsworth, all of Johnsonburg; 11 grandchildren, Daniel Cherry Jr., Dick Cherry III, Damion Bevacqua, Brandon and Brittany Beaver, Kieley Paidisetty, Ted, Rudy, and Andy Cherry, and Max and Maggie Cherry; and six great-grandchildren, Josephine Bevacqua, Christian and Marlee Cherry, and Haylee, Gracie, and Aubrey Cherry.
He is also survived by three brothers, Joseph (Joyce) Cherry, Francis (Glenda) Cherry, and Raymond (Gayle) Cherry; and one sister, Theresa (Dave Wolfe) Cherry, all of Johnsonburg.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by four brothers, John, Pat, Tony, and Albert Cherry; and two sisters, Catherine Bergant and Roselyn Haight.
He will be dearly missed by all that had the honor to be his family or friend.
Private funeral services for Richard A. "Dick" Cherry will be held at a later date.
Ubel Funeral Home, 111 Bridge St., Johnsonburg, is entrusted with funeral arrangements.
Memorials, if desired, are suggested to the Johnsonburg Library.