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Thomas Chace Cheney passed away peacefully at Sharon Richardson Hospice in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, on July 12, 2022, in the company of his children and sister, after a series of medical issues following a recent surgery.
Tom was born in Des Moines, IA, December 26, 1946, to Jane and Wilbur Kirchner, later adopted by stepfather, Bill Cheney. Tom grew up as a “wild child” and the charming “class clown” in Garden Grove, CA and Fremont, NE, graduating from Fremont High School in 1964. He attended Hastings College, the University of Nebraska, and graduated from Midland College in Fremont, NE in 1969 with degrees in Science and Sociology. Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army to avoid being drafted, and attended Officer Training School at Ft. Benning, GA. He served honorably and received an early discharge related to an injury.
On a subsequent trip to Europe with friends, Tom met his future wife, Ellen Zimmermann. They married on June 28, 1972. Tom and Ellen settled in Delaware City, Delaware, where they worked at a facility for mentally ill children. In 1984, they moved to Sheboygan, WI, where Tom was employed by K.W. Muth Company in R&D. Tom and Ellen raised and showed Alaskan Malamutes for a time until their daughter, Allison, was born in 1976. In 1979, they moved to Davenport IA, where their son, Grant, was born. Tom worked for Caterpillar and earned a teaching certification. In 1984, the family moved back to Sheboygan WI. Tom, having been trained in pyrotechnics in Illinois, designed and set off fireworks displays at Lake Ellen and Elkhart Lake, with friends who he organized into well-run explosives teams---“Tom’s Danger People”! Tom briefly engaged in substitute teaching and several other positions before he stayed home due to the challenges of a developing disability. Tom’s mental illness was a creative gift, but equally a debilitating challenge in his life. Tom and Ellen divorced in 2001 but remained friends and celebrated most major holidays together with their children and grandchildren. For the last 20 years, Tom lived under the care of many wonderful caregivers, nurses, and social workers in Sheboygan County.
Tom was a brilliant man with many interests, including: social theory, religion, philosophy, chemistry, astronomy, pyrotechnics, antiques, inventing games, collecting clocks, tiffany-style lamps, and coins. He was fiercely proud of his family, and unafraid to promote them and their accomplishments to anyone and everyone. Tom viewed himself as a “social engineer” and believed in the power of having the right connections. His bold personality, paired with mental illness, removed his filters and social norm boundaries, leading to some embarrassing and some useful phone calls. Tom loved his children and grandchildren and he found great joy in showering his family with attention and thoughtful gifts.
Tom is survived by his daughter, Allison (James) Annis; son, Grant (JoEllen Strehlow) Cheney; former wife, Ellen Cheney; sister, Susan (George) Ralston; grandchildren Chace Wilson, Lila Thornton, Finn Annis, Grace Annis, Reeder Strehlow, and Elliot Strehlow; as well as cousins, nieces, and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother, Jane Kreymborg; father, Bill Cheney; and dear friend, Steve Westphal.
A Memorial Celebration of Tom’s life will be held at 11:00AM on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at Wenig Funeral Home, 711 Broadway in Sheboygan Falls. The family will receive visitors at the funeral home on Tuesday morning from 10:00AM-11:00AM.
Funeral Services in Freemont, NE will be held on Friday, October 21, 2022 at 11:00am (Dugan Funeral Home).
Donations in Tom’s name may be made to Sharon Richardson Hospice in Sheboygan Falls.
Wenig Funeral Home – Sheboygan Falls is assisting the family with arrangements. Please visit www.wenigfh.com for more information and online condolences.
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
10:00 - 11:00am (Central time)
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Starts at 11:00am (Central time)
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