Kurt J. Kolka
SHERRI REED: "ADVERSITY MAKES US STRONGER"
2017 / by Kurt J. Kolka
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Independence Day is about celebrating our freedom as a nation. Among those who have protected our freedom for decades now is Grayling High School graduate Sherri Reed.
Sherri's family moved to Grayling when she was about 4 years-old and attended school in Grayling throughout childhood.
“I remember when we first moved here we were in this one-bedroom cabin, my mom, dad and six kids,” recalls Sherri. For my birthday I got this bag of [plastic] army men. So, in this little, tiny space I had army men everywhere. It's one of my first memories.”
With six children, her parents often did not have it easy keeping track of everyone. Occasionally one did get left behind. Sherri mostly remembers it being her.
“One time we went into town for something and they left me at Dawson's. They got home and said, 'We're missing one.' They had to come back into town and I'm sitting there at Dawson's counter with a Coke going, 'What's up?'”
Another time, when the family moved from a house west of town to a house in Grayling, no one told her not to ride the bus home. So, she arrived at the old house and found it locked up. When darkness came on, she walked over to the neighbors and they contacted her parents.
Sherri was always very active and competitive growing up. She remembers going skiing with her siblings at a very young age. In 1969, she won a first-place trophy for competitive skiing for 6-8 year-old girls out at Bear Mountain, now Hanson Hills.
“I think I was probably better at skiing, but I loved to play basketball.
“I remember in middle school, I used to get to gym class and get dressed really early. I'd take a basketball out of Mrs. Doty's office, slip out and shoot some hoop. Then, she'd come out and yell at me. I think that would happen every day we had gym. Every day.”
Sherri became part of the girls basketball team in high school when it was still new.
“At the onset, the girls came out and they had no skill, no talent, no background in any sports. So, unless you were playing with the neighborhood kids, like John Junttila, Sid Canfield and Jeff Parkinson [like I was] there was nothing.”
School athletics did not come without injury to Sherri however. In her junior year, she had a mishap while shooting baskets in the gym just before Christmas break.
“I'm watching Maribeth Good, Karen Hanson and everybody play volleyball in the gym. And I'm playing basketball, right? So, I shoot a free throw. Then, I go and grab ahold of the net and pulled my chin up on the rim. And I let go.
“Unfortunately, that's not a good thing to do, because the ball was right under my foot. So, I landed and rolled on the ball and slammed my foot on the hardwood.”
Not even the volleyball players noticed when she fell. So, Sherri walked on it carefully for the rest of the evening, keeping even her family in the dark about her accident. When it was time for bed, she got up off the couch and found she couldn't stand on her foot.
Her mom took her to Mercy Hospital for treatment and Dr. Dosch came over to put a cast on it.
Upon seeing her the next day, ski team coach Mike Weiland was not happy.
“I've always been competitive. I remember Stephanie Fick telling me one time when I was angry, 'You don't always have to be first.' I was like, 'I can't let somebody else be first.'”
Upon graduation, she spent the first few years in the Lansing area and graduated from Michigan State University.
Sherri went on to enlist as a military police officer in 1981 and became an officer in 1987.
During the Gulf War, she became a volunteer correspondent with the Crawford County Avalanche, relaying information from the war.
“At that time I was a first Lieutenant and had some pretty interesting jobs there. It was a lot different being in the military at that time. There was no Internet. If you could call, you were calling through a defense switch network. They'd cut you off after 10 minutes.”
She was with the Patriot defense system for about 10 years after that. She then went on to teach ROTC at Central Michigan University for three years.
When a position opened in Colorado, she had to take it. Colorado meant skiing. While positioned there, she worked in public affairs for the division for five years.
After that, she spent time in various places, especially Germany, receiving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring in 2015.
“I was retired for about nine hours and fifteen minutes and then I went and got my contractor I.D. card and pretty much was doing the same job I was doing.
“I am an I.T. project manager for Hewitt-Packard Enterprises. I'm contracting with the Navy right now.”
Even after all these years, Sherri still hasn't gotten Northern Michigan out of her blood. She recently purchased a house near Harbor Springs in an area her siblings also have vacation homes. There they remain close to skiing areas and enjoy an area which reminds them of where they grew up.
Sherri feels her life in Grayling, as a child, taught her much to prepare her for life. She is not sure children today have grown up understanding the same principles she grew up with.
“Everything you want is going to take work. Kids today want it just handed to them. For me, part of that came just playing sports with the neighbor kids. I never had to worry about a safe place to go. I was always at the gym or the tennis courts. And I also developed lasting friendships that way.
“Coach Mike Weiland taught us about adversity. To tough it out and just take it. He set standard of how you are going to achieve things is by working at them. If you want something you have to work for it.”