Almost everyone has a place that is indelibly imprinted within their memories. For some that may be the family farm; for others it could be a special vacation spot or a fondly remembered outdoors location. For many that place may be the town they grew up in. For me, Cherokee, Oklahoma holds that distinction. When […]

Almost everyone has a place that is indelibly imprinted within their memories. For some that may be the family farm; for others it could be a special vacation spot or a fondly remembered outdoors location. For many that place may be the town they grew up in.
For me, Cherokee, Oklahoma holds that distinction. When my family moved to Cherokee from Pratt in 1968, I was only three years old. We would live there for the next 12 years.
Our formative years are filled with rich, deep memories as we come to understand the world and our place in it. I recall many such memories from those years spent in Cherokee. It was an idyllic, safe place for a young boy growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s. It also represented, for me, a period when my family of origin was still intact, since my parents would later divorce. Cherokee yet holds tender memories for me, and, of course, all of those memories are connected with people.
Last weekend, I traveled south to remember one of Cherokee's native sons, a former classmate and friend, who reflected well upon the community that had nurtured him throughout his formative years and to which he gave back throughout his life.
Doug McMurtery died on Tuesday, March 19, following over a month long struggle with the flu, pneumonia, and related complications. He was a farmer. He was also a committed and participating member of his church. Other than time spent away at college, he was a lifelong resident of Cherokee. A large gathering of family and friends filled the pews, balcony, and overflow area of the First Baptist Church to commemorate the life he lived.
Many, like Doug's classmate Bobby Medina, traveled a good distance e to say goodbye to their friend. Bobby now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Friends throughout Junior High and High School, Bobby and Doug became roommates when they attended Oklahoma State University after high school graduation. Bobby and I also became friends not long after he and his family moved to the area in our 6th grade year. We renewed our friendship several years ago at one of the Cherokee reunions. Other classmates who paid last respects were Channon Greenwood of Oklahoma City; and, Brian Schwerdtfeger, Mike Roberts, and Rhonda Hodgson Mast, all of Cherokee.
You can never truly go home, it has been said, because home has become a different place than it once was. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the reservoir of memories that Cherokee holds. It was a time and a place for young boys, like Doug and me, to come of age. I am grateful to be able to return there today and visit with those who remained in the area, as well as those who, like me and at times, return to rediscover their roots, whether that's at the sad occasion of a funeral or the happier one of the All School Reunions, held every five years.
Today though, there is a hole in Cherokee that can't be filled, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Doug's widow, his parents, his two sisters, and many other family members and friends.