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On January 14, 2021, Harry Evan Cheever Jr. passed away peacefully having enjoyed a long and well-lived life for 105 years and 2 months. He filled the world with good cheer & fun, served his country and his community, married and raised a family, and made friends wherever he went. He was preceded in death by his wife Mae & son Ron, and is survived by his son Dennis Cheever, daughter-in-law, Gail Fox Cheever, baby sister Shirley Saunders, nephew Chuck Hill, and daughter-in-law Susan Cheever. He left behind the entire Fox Family who adored him and a legion of friends who loved him dearly.
Harry was born November 22, 1915, in Webster City, Iowa, to Harry Cheever Sr. and Iva Ringsdorf. In July of 1928, his family moved to Arvin, CA, with Harry and his dog, Laddie, riding in style in the crowded backseat of a ’28 Chevrolet. Young Harry was a trumpet player and on the family’s drive west blew his horn as they rounded corners through the Rocky Mountains. He attended Arvin Elementary, and there he met the love of his life, Mae Hill. Harry & Mae were class of ’34 & ’35 DRILLERS, who rode the school bus together from Arvin to Kern County Union High School in Bakersfield every day for 3 years. Harry played trumpet in the Driller Band from 1931 to 1934 and marched in the Rose Parade all four years. While in high school he also started playing in the Jack Monan Dance Band and played in all the Kern County dance halls during the 1930s. Harry & Mae married in April 1937, and soon after they opened Cheever’s Variety Store in Lamont, CA – one of the dozen variety stores throughout Kern & Tulare counties owned by Cheever & Ringsdorf family members. His days as a merchant were interrupted by his service during World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He wanted to be a pilot, but at 27 he was too old, so he served as a mechanic and crew chief on BT-13 & AT-11 aircraft at Minter Field, Shafter, CA and Carlsbad, New Mexico. He returned to civilian life in Lamont and operated Cheever’s Variety Store for over 35 years. He served on the Lamont School Board for 20 years and was long time member & officer of the Lamont Lions Club as well as the Arvin Masonic Lodge.
Harry was never one to talk about the ‘good old days’. Like the good driver that he was, he kept his eyes on the road ahead. In his 90’s he moved to Texas to live with ‘his Kids’, Dennis and Gail. He mastered the use of flip phone and learned to use a computer so that he could email friends, check his bank account, watch YouTube videos of old cowboy movies, Big Bands & the Army Air Corps, and read The Bakersfield Californian just as he had done for years. He had a busy social life driving to a different senior center every day and was an active member in the Roanoke TX Masonic Lodge. He celebrated his 90th, 99th & 100th birthdays in grand fashion with big birthday parties in Bakersfield where scores of friends & family gathered from near and far to celebrate. He topped off his 90th birthday sailing with Dennis & Gail in the British Virgin Islands aboard a 50’ catamaran. He always knew how to have a good time no matter how old he was.
In 2011 he once again pulled up stakes and moved back home to Bakersfield taking up residence in a senior apartment at Carriage House, where he enjoyed the company of new friends and a variety of social activities. He was a good dancer, so he was always in demand on the dance floor, and nearly every afternoon he could be found playing Hand & Foot or Rummi-O with friends, including his best friend Bryna, who always matched his wit and kept him honest. For Thursday afternoon wine parties he and his friend Dick Hobart acted as resident bartenders & general entertainment. He was a loyal Dodger fan and enjoyed watching games whenever he wasn’t busy. He almost never missed Jeopardy and mostly watched old cowboy movies all of which he had seen multiple times. To the end of his life he remained young at heart, clear minded, quick witted and contented. Just a few days before his passing, he FaceTimed with a couple of his Fox Family ‘grandchildren’. To all who knew him, Harry was a treasure – a handsome devil, filled with humor, wisdom and wit, as well as an unfailing ability to make others laugh. He was our hero and our role model for aging gracefully and living life to the very end. In a word Harry was simply AMAZING!
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