Cheryl Theresa Speed, age 55, of Stephens City, Virginia, passed away on February 4, 2024, in Washington, DC, succumbing to complications related to a pre-natal congenital heart condition. Cheryl was born on July 12, 1968, in Needham, Massachusetts, and baptized at St. James Catholic Church in Boston, MA, on July 14, 1968. Cheryl is survived by her sister Kellie Biggins (husband, William), many relatives in Massachusetts, Maine, and California, and an army of close friends too numerous to mention. She was preceded in death by her father, John Thomas Speed, and her mother, Maureen Isabel (McDevitt) Speed, both of Massachusetts.
A New Englander through and through, Cheryl deeply loved her family and their roots in the Boston area. She was also an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan.
Cheryl attended high school at Ursuline Academy (Class of 1987) in Dedham, MA, Northeastern University in Boston, and graduated from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, with a degree in Political Science (Class of 1991). She maintained close friendships from each of these eras of her life.
Cheryl lived life intentionally, knowing from childhood that her days were numbered. Her first heart surgery was just four days after birth and she would spend the rest of her 55 years managing her complicated health issues. She made yearly trips to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where her team of doctors knew her best – not only as patient, but as friend. Defying all odds, Cheryl was one of the only people with her congenital heart condition to live into adulthood.
Cheryl was a private, strong, independent, and courageous person who never wanted to be defined by or limited by her health issues. Instead, she lived life to the fullest, cultivated friendships from all walks of life, helped those in need, and kept most of her sufferings to herself. Perhaps because of her unique journey, Cheryl was acutely aware that life is a gift, worthy of respect, and to be lived with purpose. She credits her mother – her first and fiercest advocate – for her fighting spirit.
During a trip to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1990 – A.K.A. “the best summer of my life” – Cheryl’s passion for making a difference took root during her epic internship with NYPLC. She made life-long friends that summer, and this experience inspired her future work, volunteer efforts, and ultimately her relocation to Northern Virginia in 2003.
Among the places she worked include Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the Archdiocese of Boston, and The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment. Cheryl served the last 20 years at the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, where she made a positive impact on the lives of many and acquired dear friends along the way.
For nearly 20 years, Cheryl lived in the Fairlington area of Arlington, Virginia, where she was a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Among her church activities, Cheryl served as a Eucharistic minister, spearheaded efforts to help pregnant women in need through Gabriel Project, and was active with the women’s group, Walking With Purpose.
More recently, Cheryl moved about an hour and a half away to Stephens City, VA, where she proudly transitioned from condo owner to single-family-home owner. She made friends quickly in her neighborhood and in her new parish, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Front Royal. Cheryl served on the board of Women of St. John’s, taught religious education classes, volunteered at the local pregnancy resource center, and recently joined a Gourmet Cooking Club.
An avid traveler, Cheryl visited numerous foreign countries, on at least 5 continents. She joined the exclusive club of visitors to all 50 states. Her goal was 50 by the age of 50, but she did it in 48.
When she wasn’t volunteering or socializing, Cheryl was fostering dogs (adopting two in recent years, Maisey and Leo), devouring books and news, and tending to home improvements, including a new kitchen which was recently completed.
Cheryl spent about a decade as a volunteer with the Kennedy Center. She made great friends and saw almost every show. Cheryl especially loved her time volunteering at events where numerous celebrities, including Lady Gaga, had the privilege of meeting her.
As many can attest, Cheryl made friends and built community for herself, often bringing together people from different parts of her life. She was usually the first to remember a birthday and organize a celebration. She was a thoughtful and generous hostess, and became known for her St. Patrick’s Day parties, priest appreciation dinners, election and debate night watch parties, and more.
Cheryl could be defined in many ways depending on how you knew her. Universally, she was loved for her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, as well as her kindness, generosity, loyalty, courageous spirit, charitable heart, and keen sense of justice and mercy. Unassuming and notably humble, Cheryl would probably dislike that those of us who love her are gushing about her. We have little doubt she will enact some sort of good-natured revenge, if possible, from her heavenly home.
One of her favorite quotes – which she kept at home, at work, and also posted on FaceBook – is from Archbishop Charles Chaput:
“Life is short. We’ll be forgotten by everyone but God. Our home is heaven, and the politics of this world won’t matter there. Charity, justice, courage, mercy – these are the virtues, or their absence, that will shape our eternity. These are the things that really matter. So, to the degree we remember where we’re finally headed, we remain sane.”
When asked days before her passing how she would like to be remembered, Cheryl, without hesitation, stated, “A Catholic, pro-life woman who defended her faith.” And, the final words Cheryl spoke, moments before her passing, were, “Thank you. Thank you.” Even in death, Cheryl was grateful for the life God gave her and for the love of family and friends.
Cheryl will be deeply missed. No doubt she will spend her time in heaven much like she did on earth – helping, praying, loving, laughing. Probably making sarcastic cracks here and there, if that’s allowed.
Please join us in celebrating Cheryl and praying her into her final home:
Visitation, Rosary, and Irish Wake will be held Monday, February 12 from 5 – 8pm at Cunningham Turch Funeral Home in Alexandria, Virginia.
Her funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 13, at 12 Noon, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Final interment immediately following Mass at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax, Virginia (Garden of the Crucifix section).
In lieu of flowers, Cheryl expressed that it would be a beautiful gift for donations to be made to a charity she long supported, St. Anthony Shrine Lazarus Ministries, helping bury those without means: https://stanthonyshrine.org/ministries/lazarus-ministry/
Condolences on behalf of the family gratefully accepted by Cheryl’s sister, Kellie Biggins: 651 Okeechobee Blvd, #1001, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.
Cheryl, dear daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend, may your soul rest in eternal peace and perpetual light shine upon you.