The Florida Keys and Key West lost one of their most ardent supporters and dedicated champions last winter with the passing of Key West’s former First Lady Cheryl Cates, wife of former Key West Mayor and current County Commissioner Craig Cates. More than that, she was one of the most active volunteers, board members and fundraisers, constantly working to improve the lives of others.

She was a force to be reckoned with and her family is now working to ensure that her legacy is one not of loss, but of the love she showed her family and her community.

The Cates family has created the Cheryl Cates Memorial Foundation to assist families and children in need in Monroe County and improve their quality of life by making grants directly to them and other charitable organizations in order to meet needs that are not otherwise being addressed.

“We will continue Cheryl’s legacy of filling in the gaps other organizations are not able to provide for. She was a constantly present help in the community and her work will be continued through this foundation,” said her daughter, Nicole.

The Cates family, pictured with Cheryl at center, has created a memorial foundation in her name. CONTRIBUTED

The family invites all who knew Cheryl to join them for a celebration of life on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the live music starts at 6:30 p.m. Cheryl was never one to shy away from a good time, and some of the island’s best loved musicians will honor her memory, including Caffeine Carl, the Bubba System, Clayton Lopez, Taylor Berard, Howard Livington, Alfonse, Riley Canalejo and Rick Cleaver. 

Refreshments will be provided and a cash bar will be available. 

About Cheryl Cates 

Cheryl Hollon Cates was born in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida. She moved to Key West at the age of 2 and lived here most of her life. In 1971, Cheryl married her high school sweetheart,  Craig Cates, and they had three beautiful daughters and four amazing grandchildren with whom she shared her love of music, performance and cars.

Cheryl’s and her husband’s work ethic and determination helped to bring their dreams to fruition. Cheryl co-owned Cates Automotive, C-N-C Engine Services, and Napa Auto Parts with Craig. All of them served as successful, locally owned and operated businesses of their hometown.

But being a successful business owner and mother of three girls wasn’t enough for this hard-working woman who radiates energy. So she decided to pursue a career as a licensed Florida Realtor. She worked in that capacity for 34 years, hanging her license at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services for the last 22. She was inducted to the Berkshire Hathaway Honor Society, and recognized on a national level for exceptional  sales and leadership  skills. She was a real estate professional who enjoyed a prosperous career in Key West. 

Cheryl was service driven and gave her time to countless boards and committees. She was a member of the Key West Woman’s Club for 32 years. She committed a decade of service to Zonta, from which she received the Community Service Award of Excellence in 2012. She served on the board of directors for Kids Come First and Wesley House Family Services, she was vice president of Samuel’s House executive board and was a member of the Key West Mystic Krewe. She received the Key West Business Guild’s Presidential Award in 2017, the Key West Star Award from the Chamber of Commerce in 2016 and several other accolades and recognition over the years from many local non-profits including the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter, the 551 Club and the Botanical Gardens.

Cheryl enjoyed encouraging and supporting local non-profits. She served her community with a special interest in children and families. She supported her husband Mayor Craig Cates as the “First Lady” of Key West for over a decade, representing city leadership at thousands of events over his five terms of service.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.