Photos: Cates’ Family Collection

We all know the ingredients start with a turn at the karaoke mike in this case!

“Harper Valley PTA, or Grandpa,” Crystal, the youngest daughter laughs. “The number one thing I like to do with her is go boating, and also watch her sing!”

The song, Cheryl has been rocking to the beat to for over three decades the one called motherhood. At the ripe age of 18 she married our now mayor, and whah-la!

  Had Tammy.

“My mom used to tell me it was like watching me raise myself,” Cheryl recalls with glee. “Nicole came 16 moths later. It was like having twins.”

In the 70’s this young mom wasn’t necessarily leading a glamorous or pampered life as some may have been led down a path to believe. She was a working mom. In fact, Cheryl held a job since she was 13-years old. Her own mother stayed-at-home, while her dad shrimped; so, she punched a clock at the old cinema where the Walgreens is now on Duval, to be able to buy her own dresses and other items essential to a teen. When Tammy and Nicole were young she made fast-food fantastic at a McDonald’s owned by her brother-in-law. Then went on to securing a sales position with JM Pontiac, pedaling polyglycoat.

“The girls were all born in Hollywood, and we lived in Fort Lauderdale. Craig had his mechanics degree and there wasn’t much work for him in Key West back then. His dad was a fisherman, and we didn’t have tourism. It was all military and fishing. So, I worked, too.”


Ten years after Nicole, Crystal came into the crowd of Cate’s.

  “We had tried to get pregnant for six years,” Cheryl is candid. “After Crystal, Craig said, ‘no more.”

Tammy, a former school teacher and current stay-at-home mom to three youngsters, Taylor, Trevor, and Andrew; says, she remembers her mom working, and always there to pick them up and shuttle them to activities.

“She could have had ‘Mom’s Taxi’ on the back of her car,” Tammy jokes. “She always took us to the beach, cheerleading, soccer, softball, she was always there. I didn’t really feel like she worked.”

“Yep. She always worked, but she always got us everywhere. We were into everything,” recalls Nicole, who’s now prevention services director and licensed mental health counselor for The Wesley House. “I always remember her being there. She took care of everything throughout my whole life, and she was extremely loving.”

Loving her husband as well as her girls.

Tammy says she always aware of their strong marriage and how important their relationship was and remains.

  Plus, the example set the tone for her own marital success.

“They do everything together. They work together, they campaigned together; he waits in the car while she’s getting a pedicure,” Tammy admits, in awe herself! “She’s a great example of what a wife should be. We’re all very blessed to be able to see a good marriage. She respects my dad and that is something I always try to remember myself.”

Cheryl, who serves on board for Samuel’s House, The Wesley House, and is a member of Zonta, and the Key West’s Women’s Club, has the resume to backup the groundwork for a mom who does everything. Her passion to the community and her family is something resonating with Nicole, whose daughter Riley is four.

“I enjoy my job as well as my family. I don’t let my job interfere. She did a good job accomplishing that,” Nicole says.

Apparently, Cheryl does a spectacular job marking the holidays. Her girls all have very vivid memories of Valentine’s Day, decking the halls, pumpkins, birthday parties, and Easter.

Besides making every day a holiday Cheryl was certain she would instill in her girls they knew they were going to college. 

“Craig and I never had the opportunity, and they’re all very intelligent and doing well in life. I made sure they could do anything they wanted when they grew up, and I’m very, very proud of them,” dishes the island’s First Lady, who’s also amazed watching them raise with their own. “It’s so funny because Riley is so much like Nicole and Taylor is so much like Tammy. It is like watching them raise themselves, and my mom would say the same thing about me when I had Tammy.”

Tammy finally had two boys, and Trevor is the only blonde-hair, blue-eyed one out of the entire brood, taking after his Grandma.

“We didn’t think boys were possible,” jokes Crystal, “and no. I was not supposed to be a boy.”

“That was Tammy,” Nicole chimes in. “They even have a spoon somewhere that says, ‘Craig Cates, Jr.!’”

This Mother’s Day Cheryl and her girls will enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch at The Westin following church and a Saturday on the boat.



Craig and Cheryl with Tammy and Nicole on the swing at Granny Cates’ home on Duncan Street. “My parents did a wonderful job giving us values. They didn’t just tell us to do something; they lived the life,” Nicole shares.




Crystal, Tammy, Cheryl, and Nicole Cates. “I’m able to stay home with my children. I’m lucky,” admits Tammy. “She’s always worked hard and had a lot of integrity, and I admire her for that.”



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