When Cherese learned about a program named PAWS/LA, she quickly got involved. PAWS/LA means Pets Are Wonderful Support / For People Living with HIV/AIDS / Los Angeles. She would take pets for veterinary care when their owner could not. Cherese loved animals, especially dogs and cats, but she hated mosquitos because she was allergic to them and she was terrified of spiders, but still, could not hurt one.
We had several dogs through the years, but, Cherese's favorite was Dudley, a stray german shepherd/collie mix our family rescued as a puppy. A special bond developed between them. When Dudley was 9 years old he became ill and had to be put down... I'll never forget that day as Cherese held him in her arms and cried while the veterinarian gave Dudley a shot and we had to say our goodbye.
cherese & dudleydudleymistycherese mari laulhere<>4 - 4
Years later she fell head over heels with another dog named Misty, a white labrador retriever. And she also took in a stray cat we called Miss Kitty!
Still dancing in high school, and now the owner of about a dozen pairs of tap and jazz shoes, Cherese had performed in many recitals. She studied drama at Wilson and we really enjoyed watching her performances. One in particular was "The Bad Seed", where Cherese played the mother of the wicked little girl. We were always her biggest fans and especially enjoyed when she performed solo. I would often say, "I wish I could dance like you do", and she would take me by the hand and say, "Come on Mom, I'll teach you."
Cherese had been playing tennis for about a year and decided to try out for the school team. She made varsity. It was always exciting to watch her play in competition games. She would give 110% of herself, but, she also loved to play just for fun, especially with Todd and Larry.
Like most teenagers, Cherese had a variety of jobs. She baby-sat, was a hostess in a restaurant named "Spoons", worked in a deli, until she got food poisoning, and she worked in a lawyer's office in Santa Monica. However, her most important job was working with her dad on the family construction business.
During her years in high school, Cherese worked very diligently, dedicating herself to her school work to achieve high marks, which would prepare her for college and her future. Cherese had goals and high expectations. She was realistic and sensible, extremely cautious, always weighing the pros and cons of a situation before making a move.
High School Graduation day, June 18, 1992, Cherese graduated with honors. We were so proud of her. She was very happy and excited to start the next chapter of her life: college. She decided to attend Cypress College where Todd was already going. During this time, Todd and Cherese grew much closer, giving each other support and encouragement. Cherese began to develop strong feelings against racism and wanted to explore various religions, their ethics and the effects they have on people.
chris (mom), cherese & larry (dad)cherese & todd<>1 - 2
After two years at Cypress College, Cherese was prepared to transfer. In 1994 she was accepted into UCLA... she was thrilled and so were we! It was time for her to move out of the only home she had ever lived in. It would be difficult, yet exciting. She found an apartment in Westwood to share with three complete strangers, all female, all very different, but she didn't feel safe there.
She wanted to try living on her own, and though we were reluctant, Cherese found a one room studio apartment a couple blocks from campus. Todd had also recently moved out of our home to attend Cal State University Fullerton. Larry and I were about to experience 'Empty Nest Syndrome!' Actually, Cherese was such a homebody girl, we got to see her quite often. I didn't even mind when she brought home her laundry. I can remember many times telling Cherese, how happy she made us and how lucky we were and so very proud of her.
The first year at UCLA, Cherese was very shy and kept to herself. She had planned her classes according to her goals. She was a geography major. She used much of the knowledge gained by her dedication and perseverance in school. The Spanish she learned from a textbook was applied at our family business, and would also benefit her while traveling abroad. She loved to listen to Spanish music and enjoyed foreign films.
Cherese was very interested in social and political issues and often expressed a deep concern for those who were less fortunate. She focused her studies and efforts on how she could help, especially children.
During her time at UCLA, Cherese learned about the "Semester at Sea" program, which at the time was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh, and run by the Institute for Shipboard Education. They take 700 students, twice a year, around the world for 100 days on a cruise ship. It is full time school when they are out to sea and field studies when they are in port for college credit.