As police continue to search for clues in the death of Mountlake Terrace resident Cheryl DeBoer, her family took comfort in the large turnout at her Celebration of Life service last Saturday, Feb. 20.
Family members estimate at least 500 people attended the service.
“My mom would have been ‘embarrassed’ that all these people were there for her,” her son Eric DeBoer said.
In attendance were family members, friends and coworkers, even some strangers.
“She was loved by many and touched many lives whether she knew it or not,” Eric said. “Once she met a homeless person at her bus stop in Seattle. The weather was getting cooler and she noticed a man without a coat, or sleeping bag. She asked if he would like a coat and sleeping bag. He said yes, so my mom told him to meet her at the bus stop the same time the next day. The following day he was waiting and my mom handed him a sleeping bag and jacket. She treated everybody like this.”
Several family members use the word “love” when describing Cheryl.
“Cheryl was gentle soul. She loved her family deeply. She was the middle child and a peace keeper. She had a brilliant mind just like her brother Carl,” Cheryl’s sister Karen Coragiulo said. “She was very much looking forward to retirement and someday being a grandmother. They had plans to possibly move to Montana or Spokane in retirement. Cheryl was the best sister I could have asked for.”
Cheryl DeBoer was born on May 23, 1962 in Seattle. She has been a lifelong Mountlake Terrace community member, first moving to the area when she was 15 months old and returning when she had her son Eric. She attended Brier Elementary and Junior High School then graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School. While there, she participated in track and cross country.
She worked at Fred Hutchinson in Seattle, specifically in The Statistical Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Prevention.
“She had a passion for her work, research and dark chocolate,” reads the program given to attendees at Saturday’s service.
One colleague submitted a letter describing the love she had for her work at Fred Hutchinson. Nilu Goonetilleke works in a lab at Oxford University that is researching HIV and what happens immediately after a person is infected.
“Cheryl, with minimal fuss, wrote software that was both integral and critical to the success of our research,” Gooentilleke wrote. “The day I received the very sad news of Cheryl, I had been using the software she wrote. Ten years on, it is bug free. Thank you, Cheryl. You were an unassuming and incredibly kind person who made tangible contributions to the global HIV research effort.”
Cheryl was last heard from at 7 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 8. Teams of volunteers searched for her every day. Her body was found in a culvert on Cedar Way at 244th Street Southwest on Sunday, Feb. 14.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner confirmed the found body was Cheryl’s, but has not yet confirmed the cause and manner of death. They are listed as “pending further investigation.”
The Mountlake Terrace Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation. They haven’t given an update since returning to the scene days after the body was found, but say they are putting all their resources into figuring out what happened.
“We are overwhelmed by the love and support of so many; the tireless efforts of the Mountlake Terrace Police, Search and Rescue volunteers and their dogs, the amazing devotion of Fred Hutch co-workers, Chaplains, pastors, the list goes on and on,” Cheryl’s mother Lenore Peterson said.
Family members agreed that they will miss her.
“Overall, my Aunt Cheryl was an amazing woman! She was smart, compassionate and helpful. She was a friend to all and I will miss her dearly,” Cheryl’s niece Alicia Coragiulo said.
“She was one of the most grounded, determined, caring persons I have ever known. Her family, her neighbors, her co-workers, those in need, have all been touched by her love,” Peterson said. “We will never understand why this happened and we will miss her forever.”