There are those rare people in the world who can look into your soul and provide you with insights about yourself that you didn’t even know. These special people believe in you and give you the courage to succeed and are understanding and supportive when it seems like the world is crashing down on you.
Fairmont staff members and students who had the good fortune to come in contact with Guidance Counselor Cheryl Abraham say she was one of those people.
Abraham began working as a counselor at Fairmont in the fall of 2002 and continued to do so for 12 years until her retirement at the end of the 2013-14 school year. In that time, she worked with thousands of students, built relationships with them, and became not just a counselor, but a friend.
David Elliott, the Guidance Department Chair at Fairmont, worked with Abraham for 10 years when they were assigned to East Unit Guidance Office together.
“She laughed and she made us all laugh, and it was really fun to be around her,” Elliott said. “She had a very positive outlook on life, and a sense of humor can go a long way in helping people.”
This sense of humor allowed Abraham to grow close with everyone she worked with, from her fellow co-workers, to parents and especially students.
“She understood that the primary role of a school counselor was to be an advocate for the students, and she took that responsibility very seriously and she did it very well,” Elliott said. “Students knew that she cared. I don’t know if there’s anything more important than that.”
Abraham’s dedication and work ethic were unmatched, and she brought experience as both a teacher and a licensed clinical counselor to her role at Fairmont.
“You just don’t replace someone who has those kinds of skills. It takes years to become as effective as Cheryl Abraham was working with students, and even then some of us never get there,” Elliott said. “I look at her as a role model for what I try to to.”
Her other co-workers agree that Abraham is irreplaceable, both on the Fairmont staff and as a friend. Her sense of humor and extroverted personality allowed her to communicate effectively with all types of people.
“Cheryl was phenomenal. Students first … every single time,” said Julie Fisher, a Fairmont math teacher and one of Abraham’s close friends. “She had a wicked sense of humor and a smile that would not stop. She always saw the glass half full.”
Students Abraham worked with also agree that she was helpful, kind and an all-around wonderful human being.
“She was always very kind and helpful. She made people feel like they were her priority, no matter how small their issue was,” senior Libby Groll said. “I think she really enjoyed students’ work and how hard many of the students try to improve Fairmont and stay true to its wonderful, community-centered values.”
Abraham’s influence continues to affect students, even after they have graduated. Fairmont alumni Joe Barton said,
“Even now, years later, I can’t help but laugh and smile at the absurd lengths Mrs. Abraham must have gone for me,” Barton said. “She guided me through high school, helped me decide to pursue honors and International Baccalaureate classes and held my hand through college applications, acceptances and rejections.”
Abraham lost her battle with cancer on Oct. 7, 2014, and is survived by her husband, William Linesch; daughters, Emily Smerbeck and Elyse Abraham-Linesch; and grandchildren. Her death impacted an entire community, and Fairmont lost not just an amazingly skilled counselor, but an amazingly spectacular person.
“I hope that when my time comes, that people will say of me the same kinds of things that they said about Cheryl Abraham,” Elliott said. “She was just one of those great colleagues to have, and I have wonderful memories of her.”
Jim Valvano, an American basketball coach and broadcaster, once said, “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. But it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”
Cheryl Abraham will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of the Fairmont community, and she will be deeply missed.