Community mourns death of Siler City leader

Posted 6/5/20

Siler City Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Larry Cheek passed away last Tuesday at the SECU Jim & Betsy Bryan Hospice Home of UNC Healthcare in Pittsboro, just shy of his 72nd …

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Community mourns death of Siler City leader

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SILER CITY — Siler City Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Larry Cheek passed away last Tuesday at the SECU Jim & Betsy Bryan Hospice Home of UNC Healthcare in Pittsboro, just shy of his 72nd birthday.

Cheek fell ill several weeks ago and spent time at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill before his transfer to the hospice center. He represented District 2 in Siler City for 17 years and was re-elected to office last November.

Siler City Mayor John Grimes said that Cheek was “such a valuable asset to this community” and “one of my dearest friends in Siler City.”

“He was so instrumental in fostering good relations between different ethnic groups in our community,” Grimes said. “He held it together.”

To read a personal tribute to Larry Cheek from Mayor Grimes, click here.

A Chatham County native, Cheek attend N.C. A& T State University in Greensboro and the N.C. School of Automation. He worked with Western Electric in Burlington before working with CP&L, working through its transition to Progress Energy and then to Duke Energy before retiring in 2010.

He was an active member and served many leadership positions at Corinth AME Zion Church in Siler City and also a member of the Masons-Light of the World #711.

Cheek and his wife of 50 years, Alphia Alston Cheek, had one daughter, Lecia Cheek Marsh. She and her husband Kenneth provided the couple with two grandchildren, Courtney and Trevor.

Cheek was laid to rest on Sunday at Chatham Memorial Park in Siler City following a service at Corinth AME Zion Church.

As word of the town’s loss began to spread, so did words of condolences from many with whom Cheek worked, honoring his legacy.

“I have known Larry since his days with CP&L,” said Siler City Commissioner Curtis Brown (District 3). “He was a true friend. I am new to the board of commissioners and Larry was mentoring me with the fine points of being a commissioner. I will profoundly miss him and his guidance.”

“Larry was not only a friend but a mentor as well,” Siler City Commissioner Chip Price (At-Large) said. “When I first came on the board he helped me avoid making some silly mistakes. We often bounced ideas off each other. Larry always strived to do what was right for Siler City and all it’s citizens. Siler City and I have lost a true friend. He will be sorely missed.”

Dist. 4 Commissioner Bill Haiges also sought Cheek’s advice on issues.

“I had the honor of working with Commissioner Cheek for the last six years and truly valued, and have always solicited, his opinions and advice,” he said. “He always approached a difficult decision by focusing on what outcome would be the best for all the residents of Siler City, not what would solely benefit his district. I’m a better person for having known, and worked with him. The Town will truly feel his loss, as I will very personally.”

Lewis Fadely, who represents Dist. 5 on the town board, said it’s “a sad time” for he and his fellow commissioners, and for Siler City. He called Cheek “a wonderful human being.”

“I had the pleasure of serving with him for seven years,” Fadely said. “He was a humble man who led by example. He led by serving, always placing the needs of others ahead of his own. He was truly a neighbor to all. I think that if we all had a little more Larry Cheek in us, this world would be a better place. I will miss him.”

At-large Commissioner Cindy Bray described Cheek as “a good friend of mine.”

Cheek cared deeply about Siler City and worked hard for its citizens, she said. “I learned a lot from him while serving on the board,” Bray said. “I will truly miss him.”

Commissioner Tony Siler (District 1) fondly remembered his longtime colleague on the board.

“Mayor Pro-Tem Cheek and I sit beside each other and served on the Board together for 17 years,” Siler said. “He loved the people of Siler City and the community he represented. He loved what he was doing and will be greatly missed.”

“Mayor Pro-Tem Cheek was such a valuable part of the board and his leadership and guidance will be missed,” Siler City Town Manager Roy Lynch said. “He was highly respected by staff and it was always a pleasure to see his smiling face when he stopped by town hall. Many times, it was to say ‘hello’ and see if there was anything he could do to assist. He was an advocate for the residents and always concerned for the well being of town staff.”

Former Town Manager Bryan Thompson, who serves as assistant Chatham County manager, said he always respected and enjoyed Cheek’s “leadership and his love for our community. He’s someone you could look to for sound guidance and a clear vision.”

Chatham’s elected legislators also offered condolences.

“He was indeed a dedicated and compassionate public servant,” Sen. Valerie Foushee posted on her Facebook page. “I am grateful for his leadership and his friendship. I offer my sincerest condolences and deepest sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues. Praying for peace and comfort now and the days to come.”

“Mayor Pro Tem Larry Cheek was one of my earliest supporters when I first ran for office,” Rep. Robert Reives II wrote on his Facebook page. “He was an amazing advocate for Siler City and helped move the town forward every day. But most of all I remember his kindness. He really appreciated the honor that it was to serve as an elected official as much as anyone I’ve ever known. I cannot express how much I’m going to miss him.”

Grimes issued a Mayoral Proclamation honoring Cheek’s 17 years of service, which noted that Cheek “earned the profound respect of area residents representing all ages and walks of life.” The town of Pittsboro, at the request of Pittsboro Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Pamela Baldwin, was expected to issue a resolution honoring Cheek’s years of service at its budget meeting on Tuesday.

At the Siler City Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, town attorney William Morgan told the board that his update for the week was for “the saddest of reasons.” Morgan said that as state law requires the board to have a Mayor Pro-Tem, they needed to decide which member would take over the role for Cheek, who served in that capacity for more than a decade. The board chose Bray.

In addition, Morgan provided the board members initial guidance from the UNC School of Government on filling the vacant District 2 seat, held by Cheek for 17 years. Morgan noted that “there’s no case law” that argues the board must fill the seat, but as Cheek still had three and a half years left in his term, it would be something he recommended. Haiges asked if it would be possible to wait until after the 2020 Census is complete and the commissioner districts were re-drawn to fill the vacancy, which Morgan said he would research that, but reiterated that state law does not govern the time-frame within which a municipal vacancy should be filled.

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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