Note: This story first appeared in the education/history issue of Grayson Magazine.
After years of recording the progress of students and teachers with the Denison Independent School District, Sherry Christie looks forward to more time with her grandchildren, girlfriends and husband as she settles into part-time retirement.
But that doesn’t mean anyone should expect to see Christie, whose volunteer efforts have helped raise funds (and the profiles) of too many Denison nonprofits to name, sit back and start rocking on her front porch.
Something she has enjoyed as she has neared retirement, she said, has been “watching the changing of the guard, and knowing that our community is going to be left in the hands of great young people who also care about our schools and community.” She said it has been a privilege to work with Dr. Henry Scott, Horace Groff, Jack Lilley, Donna Hunt and many others like them who have taught her so much about Denison.
“I have truly enjoyed giving back and am so very grateful to the people who have shared their stories and taught me so much,” Christie said. “In turn, I have enjoyed seeing our new young people begin to serve and love Denison, much like we have — to get excited about volunteering and working in our schools and with our chamber and economic development people. They have young kids in our schools today… and they want the best for them, just like we did. It’s rewarding to make a difference, to use everything in your background and abilities to make this community, and this world, a better place. I like to think that maybe the next generation has liked what they’ve seen us older folks do and they’re following suit.”
Speaking of younger generations, one of Christie’s prime goals in retirement is to spend more time with her grandchildren.
“It has happened at a perfect time because of their ages,” she said of her granddaughters, aged seven and four. “Both of their parents work so I can kind fill in gaps now a little bit better.”
Though Christie is making room in her calendar for more playdates with her grandchildren and travel with her girlfriends and husband, she hasn’t closed the book on community involvement. Just this summer she has helped Chuck Phelps re-open Surrender House through helping him write grant requests. She has also helped with the Denison Lion’s Club Goodfellows program, which helps give locals a Christmas each year.
“I enjoy doing a little grant writing for them, totally free of charge. I love doing it because it’s for causes that make our community better (and) make life a little bit easier for some of our less fortunate families,” Christie said.
She is also still working with the Denison Education Foundation.
“That foundation is growing by leaps and bounds, and as an employee of the school district I always worked on the media committee and special events committee. But now its more of a combined effort between me and Brian Eaves,” Christie said. “He does a lot more of the graphic design and the media components and I do the writing and the photography for all of the special events.”
Christie is also still a part of the Tinka Looney Memorial Golf Classic, which has been going strong for almost two decades and raises between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. She also remains involved in the Scholars Amongst Us banquet, which she started in 2000.
For those who don’t know, Christie — who might be called one of Denison’s most ardent cheerleaders — didn’t grow up there. She was raised in a small town Anahauc by two “wonderful parents” and two siblings. Years ago in an article for Texoma Living she described it as an “equal opportunity/no equal responsibility family.” That responsibility for doing what needed to be done stayed with her as she left the little town of around 1,800 people for the big campus at the University of Texas, where she majored in journalism and planned to work in public relations. Her first job was for a group of legislators just after graduation. She then took a stab at writing for radio and television.
She met her ex-husband, Mackey Watkins, on a blind date. They married a year later. When he was finished with medical school, they were invited to check out Denison as a place to practice. They liked it and Mackey took over an existing practice. She ran the office, which included doing a little bit of everything and a lot of dealing with people.
Learning to give, she said, was the greatest thing she took from that part of her life. Mackey and Christie divorced in 1989; her son was six at the time and her daughter still just a baby. However, she decided to stay in Denison to keep the children near their paternal grandmother, and threw herself into volunteerism. The person running the Texoma Lakefest Regatta was leaving and she was asked to take it over. The Regatta went on to be one of the most successful fundraisers in the county.
She worked with Keep Denison Beautiful, the Texoma Medical Center Foundation and Denison Education Foundation. Along the way, she worked as a writer and producer for KTEN-TV and as a consultant for a number of area foundations. She was also the executive director and a consultant for special events for the Denison Education Foundation. She later met a farmer-turned-banker named Jeff Christie. The two were married in 1994.
In 2003, when Christie was 53, DISD needed someone to improve the position of public information officer. She was the perfect fit for the job. For the next 16 years, she worked to chronicle and illustrate everything great and small about DISD and the people of the community she loves.
Now nearing her 70th birthday in November, Christie said it is time to focus more on her legacy at home. Working part-time has allowed her to spend more time with her daughter, Dustan, who recently went back to school to become a doctor. That change from accounting to medicine, Christie said, required her daughter to take some more Science courses and she was able to do that locally.
“She stayed with me when she was doing that and it’s just been wonderful to get to know her as an adult and a friend,” Christie said.
Traveling with friends has also taken a higher spot on her priority list.
“I have three close, life-long friends that I have known since I came to Denison and we are perfect travel buddies,” she said, before describing their recent boat trip from Barcelona to London. She also enjoys traveling with her husband and spending days with him and their granddaughters.
“I also have three grandpugs,” Christie said of her daughter’s dogs. “I love to babysit them.”
In Christie’s interview for Texoma Living Magazine, there was a poem on her refrigerator that had been there since her children were small, which made it into the article. All of these years later, the poem, she said, is still there and still resonates with her.
by Linda Smith
A cozy couch, hot coffee, thunder
A warm fat blanket, a baby under
Soft pajamas, a book to read
A chair that rocks, a cat to feed.
Warmed by the fire, plenty of bread
The children sleeping snug in bed
Friday nights, a wooden floor
Pumpkin pie, my friend next door.
And nothing…nothing…nothing more.
If that is all my whole life brings,
Before they tie on angel wings
Well, then my friend
We’ve lived like kings