Dr. Michael Cherington, 87, died peacefully at home surrounded by family, in Castle Rock, Colorado. His sister, Barbara, was singing the Shema prayer by phone held to his ear in his final moments.
It was a true honor to be in the presence of Michael. A master storyteller, he would connect with each person he was speaking to with grace, warmth and a bright smile. This would often occur over a spaghetti and meatballs dinner or at a favorite donut shop (in recent years, often with his Tuesday morning group of friends at Bennett’s Donuts). Or on a walk, bicycle ride, run or on the golf course—you had to earn your pasta and donuts with Michael.
Michael was one of the brightest, most accomplished, educated and intellectually curious people. His mastery of chess and obsessions with Sherlock Holmes and lightning demonstrated his intellectual pursuits. But you’d just as often find him outside, fishing in his younger years, then bicycle riding, running—including the completion of 25 marathons—and golf, or on a walk in nature.
Michael was born, in Pittsburgh, PA, to Jewish immigrant parents—Maurice Cherington and Sybil (Young) Cherington. He and his sister grew up with what could be considered a tough childhood. Still, they were surrounded by music, chess, a strong focus on education and a community of family. Michael earned a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh where he also played clarinet in the Pitt marching band. He married Ina (Morris) Cherington and together they moved to Colorado. When the Army kept them in Colorado for another couple of years, it became their home, where their three children were born; Claire (Sam), David (Kim) and Jennifer.
Michael’s medical and professional accomplishments are too extensive to list. But it was really his love of family that was his biggest achievement. He had close relationships with his three children which included times walking to breakfast or late-night donuts. Snow—no matter how much--was never an excuse. And there were wonderful trips to the mountains and beyond.
In 1990, Michael met Nancy, the love of his life. Michael truly loved Nancy (or “Nance” as he often referred to her) and he often expressed his total adoration for her. They spent the past 30+ years doing anything and everything together. In the beginning it was running and biking. Later it morphed into golf. Their beautiful life together in Colorado eventually stretched to Florida and then back and forth each year. They were truly meant for each other.
In addition to Nancy, Michael is survived by his sister, Barbara (Cherington) Coffey, his children, Claire Cherington (Sam), David Cherington (Kimberly) and Jennifer Cherington; his step-children Michelle (Geoff) and Greg (Christy); his nine grandchildren, Lindsey, Sarah (Nick), Adam, Ellen, Ben, Leah, Wyett, Shayna and Ethan; Great Grandson James Michael; 2 nieces, Sybil and Jennifer, and many cousins and dear friends. All were precious to Michael and vice versa.
Michael is preceded in death by his nephew David Coffey.
In memory of Michael, please consider a donation to Jewish Family Services of Colorado (https://www.jewishfamilyservice.org) or to the Birthright Israel Foundation (https://birthrightisrael.foundation/).
Please scroll down to the bottom of the obituary site to see the Date and Time for the Committal Service with Full Military Honors which will be held at Fort Logan National Cemetery
For more information about Michael, please read the following proposed and accepted statement for the Congressional Record about Michael on the celebration of his 85th Birthday.
Statement For the Congressional Record
Lightning Doctor Celebrates Full Life
I rise today to honor and celebrate Dr. Michael Cherington of Castle Rock, Colorado. This fall, Dr. Cherington will reach the age of 85. He has lived a full life and helped many others to do the same.
Rising to be internationally known for his work in neurology and the prevention of lightning injuries, his unlikely life began with much more humble surroundings. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1934, Mickey (as he was known) showed initial greatness at age 10 when his father arranged for Mickey to face off against the American Chess Champion Arnold Denker. This type of exhibition would have the champion face off against a dozen or so opponents on individual chess boards set up around a room. Mickey Cherington drew a draw in the match. The champion defeated all the other adult opponents—among the best players in Pittsburgh. Sadness arrived in their home a few years later when Michael Cherington’s mother died when he was 14 years old and his younger sister Barbara was 12. To be raised thereafter by their grandmother Clara, he continued to find ways to raise himself up out of these difficult early years.
He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and then Pitt Medical School. He was destined for a career on the eastern part of the United States, when a fateful suggestion from a mentor directed him to take a year for a residency before reporting for his first medical assignment back East. With his first wife Ina Cherington, he was off to Colorado Springs, Colorado. During that year, he received another important letter: “Greetings, You’re being drafted into the U.S. Army”. It was the Cuba Missile Crisis, and he served proudly. However, this three year extension in Colorado would become the hook that kept him happily in Colorado to this day, some 60 years later.
Dr. Cherington set up a private practice in neurology in Denver, Colorado and he was made professor at the University of Colorado Medical School. He served the community very well in both of these capacities helping thousands of patients in Colorado. But as an author of dozens of articles and other research, he also became internationally known traveling around the world to meet with other neurologists as new medical discoveries were allowing people to be cured of ailments that were once a fatal diagnosis.
During this time, Dr. Cherington was very active in Colorado, early on as an avid fisherman, and later as a cyclist and marathon runner, completing 25 full marathons and dozens of shorter runs. He also took up golf later in life—always seeking another challenge. He became very familiar with the State of Colorado and its magnificent beauty, but also the destructive power that nature can bring.
To this point, Dr. Cherington had seen several patients over his decades of practice who had been struck by lightning, but survived. They would arrive in his care with varying degrees of neurological damage depending on how they were struck. Towards the end of his practice seeing patients he wrote an article about lightning strikes and the injuries they can cause. At first he was disappointed as it was not picked up by the medical journals that had published dozens of his articles in the past. However, he went on to celebrate the day, as it was eventually picked up a magazine with a much larger readership, “SportsMedicine” with a dramatic photo of a lightning bolt on its cover. He frequently has provided sage advice to his grandchildren who have had a disappointment saying one of his biggest successes was the failure of being turned down by the more technical medical journals. By being published in “SportsMedicine” led to an entire new career.
And that it did. He soon was being touted as the Lightning Doctor and would go on to publish many articles about lightning injuries and how to avoid such injuries. This led to the creation of the Lightning Data Center which brought together many lightning experts across several areas of expertise and disciplines. Soon the Lightning Doctor was on local TV and beyond, including ABC’s 20/20, National Geographic, and even Unsolved Mysteries. Again, he was able to help people avoid the doctor’s office, or worse, by following a few basic practices regarding lightning storms and lightning safety.
Today, Dr. Cherington lives happily with his wife Nancy Cherington and spends time with family and close friends. That chess player from Pittsburgh can still be seen around a chess board—most likely on his iPad—or spending time with his and Nancy’s children or their nine grandchildren.
Thank you, Dr. Cherington, for all of your contributions. And Happy 85th Birthday!
[The Actual Statements for the Congressional Record were made by:
Congressman Ken Buck (Colorado) and can be found in the Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 154 (Extensions of Remarks - September 24, 2019).
And U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (Colorado) and can be found in the ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 162 (Senate - October 15, 2019).]