Sheryl Lynn Callen, 62, of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, died February 18, 2016 of breast cancer metastasized throughout brain and body. Her daughter Carrie was by her side as she slipped away peacefully in their home.
Sheri was born in Los Angeles on July 22, 1954, second child and only daughter of Daniel and Aletta Kafton. She and her brother Kenneth grew up in Los Angeles county, but moved to Mission Viejo during her high school years.
Sheri had early aspirations of a career in marine biology, but felt a call to ministry in early adulthood. She lived for a time in Kulpahar, India, devoting herself to the care of the children of a Christian orphanage and taking great joy in sharing her faith with the community. She worked for a time among Bible translators and Gospel spreaders at Good News Production industries, and always spoke nostalgically of her time at a now old-fashioned newspaper. Later in life, she cycled back to her early love of nature and conservation became a driving passion. She worked in Hawaii leading tours and educating visitors about the incredible natural abundance of flora; signed on with the Audubon Society and worked in Star Ranch; and her final job was with Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari off Dana Point, cycling back to her early love of marine life.
She met the man who would become her husband in the early 1980s, but the pair still had adventuring to do before settling down to raise a family. Over the next decade, John and Sheri corresponded by beautiful letters describing the incredible sights of Egypt, India, Africa, and Europe to the other, a lost devotion that Sheri would credit to the change in relationship from “best friend” to “beloved”. They married in 1991 and followed John’s dream to Hawaii where they lived in a small but beautiful plantation house on stilts and faced the surprise of their lives. At 42 and 40, Sheri and John became parents to daughter Carrie. Despite not expecting children, they settled into their roles as parents with joy and gusto. Sheri loved her daughter with every breath and never let her doubt it, teaching her to treasure every moment as only one who knows their own mortality can.
Medically, Sheri’s family’s life was a constant adventure. John was born with Muscular Dystrophy, which slowly but surely began to limit his mobility and take a toll on his heart. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 2000s and despite a double mastectomy to remove the tumors the cancer came back less than a decade later. Despite her failing health, Sheri took the time to plan many family vacations with John and Carrie, including road trips to national parks and cruises to Mexico and Alaska. Eventually, they were unable to withstand the rigors of travel personally but still made international travel a priority for their daughter, knowing the importance of loving thy neighbor and remembering the deep impact their own youthful travels had had on their compassion and awe for their fellow humans and world.
In both her professional and private life, Sheri was loved and respected by those she met. With her unique blend of earnest kindness and humble wisdom, she became a friend and trusted confidant and much-needed source of peace in the lives of those she touched. As cancer rose up against her, she fought it down time and time again, determined to see her daughter graduate despite the terminal diagnosis, showing the will of absolute iron hidden behind her gentle smile.
Sheri’s faith was the greatest constant of her life. She loved the Lord in the best of ways, sharing her faith freely but never intrusively, making her every word and action a reflection of God’s grace and loving as Christ called his followers to do. Her church family was as dear as her own blood, and they reflected and magnified her love back in a million ways. As her and her husband’s health declined, they were there with rides and meals and anything the family could possibly need. Despite being a part of many different congregations as she moved through life, Sheri’s church families acted as the united body of Christ and served as the very hands and feet of Jesus.
Sheri’s life will be celebrated in a service at Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist Church in Rancho Santa Margarita on April 1 at 10am.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to Kulpahar Kid’s Home (c/o Ann Huffman P.O. Box 32574 Phoenix, AZ 85064) or METAvivor (www.metavivor.org) would be appreciated
Sheri is survived by her daughter Carrie Callen and brother Kenneth (and Faith) Kafton.