A 'once-in-a-lifetime' teacher: Cherie Dandurand was 53 when she died of COVID-19
Cherie Dandurand came to the Woodbury Central School District as Miss Heilers, a green teacher and coach. After a life in Eastern Iowa — playing both volleyball and basketball for Loras College in Dubuque — she relocated to almost the exact opposite side of the state for this new adventure.
Three decades later, Cherie was married, a mother of two, a head coach and a rock on the Woodbury Central staff, beloved by pupils and coworkers alike.
"She was one of my best friends for 30 years,” said Carla Hubert, an English teacher. “I will miss her patience, advice and wicked sense of humor. She was a once-in-a-lifetime friend and colleague.”
In early January, Cherie died of COVID-19 in Sioux City. At just 53, she’s believed to be the first teacher from Northwest Iowa to die since the novel coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago.
Born in 1967, Cherie graduated with honors from Prairie High School, where she also stood out in sports, once being named the state's All-Around Female Athlete of the Year.
After Cherie’s move west, Carla set her up on a blind date with her friend Robert Dandurand. The pair hit it off and were married on a hot summer day in 1998. They made their home in Salix, a little town 15 miles south of Sioux City, and had two sons.
A history teacher, Cherie strove to bring the past alive. Her two favorite units were Egypt and the Middle Ages, Carla said. But she also liked teaching current events and politics.
Outside the classroom, she was a head coach and an assistant coach for the school's volleyball and basketball teams for many years and served as president of the Woodbury Central Education Association.
“Her dedication and devotion to teaching was unmatched and will be irreplaceable,” her family wrote in her obituary.
As a mom, she was her “sons' number one cheerleader for all of their activities,” the obituary read. She chaired the local Boy Scout Troop and taught CCD class at St. Joseph Catholic Church for more than a decade.
In whatever time was left, she often had her nose in a book.
Serving her community for 30 years, Cherie was more than a teacher — she was like family to her students and colleagues, said Woodbury Central Superintendent Doug Glackin.
"Few words can describe the impact she had on our district," he said.
Cherie’s loss will certainly be felt in the teacher’s lounge and at board meetings. But she’ll be most missed in the classroom, where she always found so much personal strength.
"Cherie had a great passion for social studies and the kids,” said Scott Herbold, another Woodbury Central teacher.
“She reached out to kids who needed someone to tell them they were special.”
This story is part of the Iowa Mourns series, a collection of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iowans lost to COVID-19
The following deaths from COVID-19 were added in the past week to our list of more than 700 Iowans who have died from the disease, found at DesMoinesRegister.com/IowaMourns.
Michael Croft, 52, Perry. Moved to Utah and became an avid biker, skier, hiker and camper.
Judi Frondle, 74, Hiawatha. Enjoyed doing puzzles, painting and playing computer games.
Leroy Goeden, 70, Sergeant Bluff. Volunteered with the Sergeant Bluff Fire Department, EMT Service and as president of the Northeast Nebraska Handicap Group.
Gary Guehrn, 76, Marengo. Loved all things tractors, including buying, selling, collecting and, most importantly, driving his Dad's restored 1950 International M.
Donald Hunter III, 60, Council Bluffs. Worked as a United States Postal Service carrier for more than three decades.
Kevin Huss, 54, Des Moines. A volunteer firefighter and EMT for the Northern Warren Fire Department.
Peggy Ann Jackson, 86, Des Moines. Co-owned Research Industries with her husband, Paul, and hauled for Alter Metal Recycling for 30 years.
Mark Johnson, 64, Maurice. Laid to rest near his family farm in rural Hinton where he can always watch over his herd.
Pamela Jane Juhl-Mennes, 76, Atlantic. An amazing cook and baker who specialized in soups and cakes.
Keith Lawrence, 95, Decorah. An ISU-certified master gardener who inspired his children's love for horticulture.
Phyllis Link, 90, Estherville. Raised chickens and sold eggs from her farm in rural Swea City.
Phyllis Liston, 86, Granger. Could read a 500-page book in two days — easily.
Cindy Litwiller, 65, Fort Dodge. Helped many small businesses through her work with Professional Developers of Iowa and other economic development groups.
Donald Lyons, 74, Boone. Ran his family's farm while serving as a Boone County Farm Bureau agent for more than 20 years.
Barbara Malone, 65, Dunlap. Enjoyed watching rodeos on television.
Barry Mertes, 65, Des Moines. A member of the VFW and Adventure Life Church in Altoona.
John Mertz III, 60, West Bend. Loved the color green and anything John Deere.
Marjorie Nearmyer, 84, Marion. A resident of Winslow House Care Center.
Bradley Ohl, 64, Oelwein. Loved his annual trips to deer camp at the Circle B Ranch with family and friends.
Nancy Owen, 89, Des Moines. Worked at General Casualty Insurance.
Randy Peters, 71, Waukee. A postmaster in Truo.
Minerva Rosales, 62, Le Mars.
Floyd Sanders, 86, Storm Lake. A master of Dad jokes.
Nancy Saunders, 64, Des Moines. Made great pies and enchiladas.
Rochelle Smith, 80, Des Moines. Worked as a telephone operator for U.S. West/Qwest Communications.
Joan Stabenow, 81, Waterloo. Loved taking trips to Florida, Mexico and Branson, Missouri.
Vera Mae Stoltze, 89, Sioux City. Played cards with friends and Yahtzee with family.
Arthur Svaldi, 82, Cedar Rapids. Served on the Good Neighbor Home Society board and the Manchester Bowling League.
Ricky Thies, 60, Marion. A talented woodworker who made shelving, a sewing table and a nativity scene.
Betty Webb, 77, Le Mars. Went all-out celebrating and decorating for the holidays.
Sharon Rae Wilson, 73, Merrill. Cared for her family cats as well as strays.
Deborah Wright, 50, Keokuk. A teacher who also wrote grants for Lee County to obtain K-9 officers.