Obituary of Sherry Howard Wilhelmi
In loving memory of Sherry Howard Wilhelmi, we are saddened to announce her passing on Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023. Sherry was born March 8, 1956 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Sherry was welcomed into the world by her parents, Marjorie and James Marney, and 3 older brothers, Jimmie, Phillip, and Ronnie. The family was complete when younger brother David and the twins, Karen and Kathy were born. Sherry was “big little helper” to her Mother, as at the age of 13, she began caring for her twin sisters, Karen and Kathy, an act of love which continued even into Sherry’s married life.
While very young, Sherry suffered from asthma, which made her ability to breath very difficult, especially in Massachusetts. Because of Sherry’s illness, the family drove from Massachusetts with a stop in New Mexico, but continued on to AZ where they found the climate suitable for Sherry.
After the trip West, and because Arizona seemed to be the best place for Sherry and her health issues, the family settled in Phoenix. Sherry attended John F. Long elementary school, Desert Sands Junior High, and Maryvale High School. Sherry was a friend to all, and in turn, everyone loved Sherry. She became interested in music and performance while in elementary school, which continued into her junior high years. The 8th grade choir sang in 4 parts, and were invited to perform in the rotunda of the Arizona Capitol building. While in high school, in addition to her love of music, Sherry added her flare for the dramatic by participating in the Thespian club. She was the little gal with the BIG voice and hair!
After High School, Sherry married Bob Marki, and her son Joshua was born. During her marriage to Robert Howard, Sherry welcomed her daughter Jessica into their family. Sherry also became a foster parent to her two nieces, Sarah and Lillie. In 2002, Sherry finally met the love of her life, Larry Wilhelmi. Following a 2 year courtship, Larry enthusiastically welcomed all of Sherry’s children and animals into his life as he and Sherry married and rejoiced with a big luau celebration.
Sherry was always an advocate for the little guy who had no voice. Among her many achievements, she was the national spokesperson for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill; the landmark Supreme Court Decision that rewrote the definition of what a disability is was the result of dogged determination to get services for her daughter Sarah; and most recently, Arizona Senate Bill 1162 passed which allowed those with chronic pain the right to continue to receive their pain medications at the doses needed to control the pain.
While in high school Sherry worked at the Training Facility in Phoenix which housed individuals with Developmental Disabilities. When that facility was closed, as the result of a monumental lawsuit, a Human Rights Committee was organized which would protect the rights of the developmentally disabled population in Arizona. Because Sherry was so fiercely protective of the disabled, vulnerable, and those in need, she
was asked to become a member. The committee later became known as the Independent Oversight Committee. Sherry served on that committee from the early 1980’s, until her passing a few weeks ago.
In spite of Sherry’s many challenges and chronic pain, Sherry had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved children and animals; she loved gatherings, parties, and decorating for the holidays. She never lost her love of music, attending plays, and supporting the arts. Sherry was a strong community advocate in her neighborhood, always keeping an eye on everything and everyone, and was the person to ask if something was going on.
We will think of Sherry whenever we see a cashmere sweater, a nutcracker, a yard full of holiday inflatable decorations, eat a popcorn ball, hear someone call us “sweetie”, or happen upon a car that matches our nail polish. We will remember Sherry when we help someone, not because anyone expects it, but because we want to. Sherry was the spice in everyone’s life, and she will be missed, but forever shining brightly in our hearts as we carry on her legacy of making the world a better place for everyone.
Sherry is preceded in death by her grandparents, parents, Marjorie and James, her brothers, Phillip, Ronnie, and David, and her sister, Kathy. She is survived by her loving husband, Larry, and her children Joshua (Kelley), Jessica, Sarah, and Lillie, her brother Jim (Dolores), and her sister Karen.
Sherry’s Celebration of Life will be held on April 29, 2023 at 11:00 AM, followed by an outside luau. Sherry requested Hawaiian attire!
Trinity United Methodist Church
3104 W. Glendale Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85051
Sherry loved colorful flowers, but also loved the dedicated work of the Shriner’s organization for children, if you wish to donate in her name. (shrinerschildrens.org)To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sherry Wilhelmi, please visit Tribute Store