Cheryl Eileen Zipper
25 December, 1950 – 12 December, 2020
Cheryl Eileen Zipper (née Stirton) passed away on December 12, 2020, surrounded by family in her home. A Christmas baby, she passed away just shy of her 70th birthday.
Cheryl grew up a farm kid in Petrolia, Saskatchewan, running happily under the big sky, along the dirt roads, over the winter snowbanks, and in the springtime puddles. She often spoke with reverence of the hard work her parents, Bernice and Alan Stirton, put into making a happy, safe, and prosperous life for her and her three sisters, Dianne, Dorenda, and Charlene. She rode horses and played games with her cousins on both the Boyle and Stirton side, and delighted in the fun and sense of belonging of the Petrolia community. Cheryl and her sister Dorenda drove the truck and the combine during the harvest. In high school in Moose Jaw, Cheryl played the clarinet and excelled in academics, graduating at the top of her class.
Cheryl rose to fame along with her sister Dorenda when they made Canadian sports history as the youngest team ever to win the Ladies Canadian Curling championship in 1970. Not even old enough to have a drink at the celebratory dinner, Cheryl ordered milk, like a true farm girl! She went on to win the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship in 1974, on a team skipped by her good friend Rick Folk.
Cheryl had a keen interest in both design and the great outdoors, which led to her pursuing a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Guelph University. She began working in Edmonton as a Landscape Architect for Alberta Parks, and a few years later, signed up for flying lessons, her father having been an RCAF pilot. It was there that she met her flying instructor, Peter, a young man from Vienna, Austria who was running a flying school in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.
Cheryl and Peter married in 1980, had Sterling in 1981, and Dominique in 1985. They moved to Vienna in 1989, where she applied her intelligence and immense discipline to learning German and completing both an MBA and Masters in Management from Webster University, again graduating as the gold medal winner at the top of her class.
Bringing her Canadian sensibilities with her, Cheryl and Peter spent their summers taking the kids on camping trips from Egypt to Switzerland to Italy, in their trusty old Volvo. The ability to speak German opened up a deep, lifelong friendship with her mother-in-law, Gisela (known to others as 'Oma'). Cheryl learned how to cook Schnitzel and enjoy red wine at the vineyards outside of the city, and loved hearing the violinists play in the cobblestone streets downtown. Viennese culture got into her blood, as she would tell you. She returned to Vienna every summer with Peter and Dominique, until 2018.
The family moved to North Vancouver in 1995, and she took a job working for the Parks department in Port Coquitlam, where she was instrumental in protecting land from deforestation and creating natural spaces for the citizens to enjoy, often despite the objections of developers and city council. Cheryl retired in 2005, after being gifted the miracle of beating stage four cancer in 2003. An avid outdoors person, she filled her retirement by absorbing as much of the West Coast nature as she could, kayaking with her childhood friend Deidre in Deep Cove, and hiking, cycling, and snowshoeing on the North Shore with her good friends in the Trail Trekkers group, the Nordic Walking group, and the Tyrol Club out of Whistler.
Inspired by her son, Cheryl devoted herself tirelessly to the cause of advocating on behalf of the mentally ill and was an active member of the North Shore Schizophrenia Society (now Pathways), from the late 2000s until her death. As President of this organization for several years, she championed community efforts to increase awareness of the needs of the seriously mentally ill. Many young people across North and West Vancouver would recognize her as the woman who stood in their grade 10 and 11 classes and taught them about bipolar and schizophrenia. Her sense of civic duty was innate, and she never considered her work to be done.
Her principles were unwavering, and paired with her kindness, made her one of the most selfless people many of us ever knew. She had a deep intuition, and her intellect was spotless. Inherently, she was a creative person, whose dream it was, following her undergraduate degree in Fine Art, to devote her energy to drawing. Her son, Sterling, inherited this gift from her. While the grief of a life cut short stings those left behind, the question of potential unanswered stretches onward, with no abating force. Thankfully, we can live in the legacy of those we loved, by pursuing our own dreams in their honour.
Cheryl was warm. Her smile was arresting. To catch her laugh, especially at herself, was simply unavoidable. Like her father Alan, she had a twinkle in her eye. While we can't know where her spirit is now, we imagine she is laughing with her dad, chatting with Oma, and floating around in the skies on a "beautiful, gorgeous day", counting seals in Deep Cove and keeping an eye out for blue herons.
Cheryl is survived by her husband Peter, her son Sterling, her daughter Dominique (Frederick), her three sisters Dianne, Dorenda, and Charlene, and her mother, Bernice. Her father, Alan, passed away in 2009, and her mother-in-law, Gisela, passed away in 2018. Cheryl is fiercely loved, and deeply missed.
A celebration of life will be held for Cheryl in the summer of 2021. Donations can be made in Cheryl's name to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Saturday, 18 September , 2021
Cheryl Eileen Zipper
have a memory or condolence to add?ADD A MEMORY
11 August 2021
I am so sorry to hear of your wife's passing. It's been a long time since we met but I have never forgotten you and how blessed I am to have met you. What a wonderful woman you were married to. Our thoughts and heartfelt prayers for you and your family. I would love to hear from you and connect with when you find time. Please know that we really care and send our sincerest condolences. Looking forward to hearing from you my friend.
4 March 2021
Dear Peter, Dominique and Sterling,
Our deepest thoughts accompany you. We will safekeep cheerful memories of the trip to Belize with Cheryl and Sterling, the Bahamas Seminar with Dominique and we will miss the Québec City trip we never had the chance to enjoy together.
Danielle Gagnon et famille.
Darla and Lloyd Spicer
14 February 2021
To the Zipper and Stirton Family; We were shocked and saddened to read of Cheryl’s passing. What a lovely, accomplished lady she was, with a gorgeous smile and a wonderful laugh. Always enjoyed visiting with Cheryl whenever she came home for a visit. We send our deepest sympathy to each of her family members and pray God will send you comfort and strength to face the difficult days ahead.
14 February 2021
Peter I am sorry for your loss and heartened to hear of the life you shared and that went on after I met you both in 1994. Best wishes and our condolences for you and your kids.
12 February 2021
we consider ourselves lucky that we got to know you and your dear family many years ago in Vienna. You have always been to us a loveable, strong, caring and remarkable warmhearted woman.
Even if your time was tight you always managed to meet with us.
We thank you very much for that, it was a wonderful and unforgettable time.
Rest in Peace, you left us much too early.
We are sure that we will meet again.
Josefine and Toni
10 February 2021
The great description of the early days brought so many memories to mind of such wonderful times we all spent together. Cheryl’s smile and laugh were heart warming and filled a room. She will never leave you!
All my love, your cousin Wendy
10 February 2021
Deepest sympathies to the Zipper family. We are sorry to lose such a wonderful Canadian who raised such thoughtful and kind children.
Darol and Linda Owens
26 December 2020
Sending sincere sympathy to the Zipper and Stirton families on the loss of Cheryl. Thinking of you Peter, and your family, and also Mom Bernice,and sisters Diane,Dorenda and Charlene.Our Petrolia community has lost another Stirton far too soon.
Love and hugs to you all.
18 December 2020
Recently connecting with Cheryl after many years and fond memories of U of Guelph days, I am sorry for your loss of such a wonderful woman who has given back in many ways. Donation in remembrance of her made to Pathways for her generous volunteer work.
Janet Ward, Class of ‘77
17 December 2020
Dear Family Zipper,
My thoughts are with you during this time. I am so sorry for your loss.” I am deeply saddened to loose my beautiful, kind friend.
I will miss her a lot.
May God be with all of you on this difficult time.
Thinking of you.
16 December 2020
My deepest condolences to all of Cheryl's family. I have known the family all my life, and share in your loss. I am happy to have visited briefly with Cheryl and Dorenda when I was in Comox in Feb. and pray that the Lord will comfort both the Zipper and Stirton family as they reflect on a life lived to the full. May God be with all of you at this difficult time.