“I have great respect for all living creatures,” my neighbor Christine Chesire explained after saying she’d recently freed a wasp that was trapped between the window pane and the screen in her apartment window.
Saving “critters” of all varieties is something my pert 40ish neighbor has been doing all her life. I first realized it the day I saw her in the backyard of our apartment complex, banging a couple of old saucepans together and wildly waving her arms upward.
Turns out she wasn’t practicing to be a cymbalist in an old-fashioned Salvation Army band. She was merely scaring away a huge hawk that had been ogling our backyard squirrels with an obvious yen for a small four-legged breakfast in mind.
Since the backyard is fairly wide and ends in a small woodsy area, many birds and small animals call it home, and Christine loves all of them. When she isn’t chasing hawks away, she’s tossing peanuts, bread or other snacks to the small creatures that inhabit our backyard.
“I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the environment,” Christine said. “I was just told recently that as a little girl I’d beg my father to stop the car so I could get out and pick wildflowers along the side of the road.”
Not surprising to learn that she’s a member of the National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, the World Wildlife Fund and The Ocean Conservancy and has donated money and countless hours to environmental causes.
But it’s not just four-legged creatures she loves. She speaks in glowing terms of her family, which includes two brothers, Stephen, an accountant with a wife and two sons who lives near Pittsburgh; and Matthew, a piano teacher and aspiring writer in New York City. All three children grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh in the same house where her parents still live.
“I owe all of my values to my parents,” she said.
In between caring for the planet, Christine entered the field of insurance underwriting, becoming an insurance agent primarily because its predictable hours gave her time to volunteer with environmental groups.
A move to Alexandria, Virginia, which she calls “one of the most beautiful cities in the United States,” proved to be good for her romantically as well as for her career. It was while she lived there that she met the man who would become her husband. Paul Chesire was not only tall, dark and handsome but, first and foremost, he was interested in preserving the environment.
“It was important to me that the person I would marry would share the same environmental views that I have,” Christine said.
And Paul had that for sure. She said he worked so hard as a volunteer for the National Wildlife Federation in Virginia that he was awarded a beautiful silver pin in the shape of a crab. And, apparently realizing that his bride-to-be was a romantic as well as an avid environmentalist, he gave it to her as a gift. That was in the late 1990s while they were dating.
“He was an excellent, outstanding volunteer,” Christine said proudly.
They married in 2000 after moving to Philadelphia. After living in Old City and a brief stint back to Pittsburgh, they settled in Phoenixville (PA) where she’s spiced up their apartment with some choice pieces of retro furniture and vintage décor from yard sales and antique shops. Christine also has a passion for clothes and accessories and is blessed with a petite figure that allows her to wear any style she chooses. But she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on them. She is an avid bargain hunter who knows every consignment shop from Phoenixville to Timbuktu.
“I worry about global warming and man's impact on the earth. I want to give back to Mother Earth which has given so much to me."
Besides Paul, her family, the environment and stylish clothing, the other love of Christine’s life is her long-haired black Coon cat, Fitzi, who could easily win the title of the most laid-back feline on the planet. Fitzi, also known as Diva or The Queen, has ruled the Cheshire household since about 2004 when Christine acquired her through the Cat Angel Network in Downington PA. At the time, Christine was still heartbroken over the loss of an earlier cat named Pokey whom they had adopted from her brother in rural Pennsylvania.
“Pokey was a beautiful animal, gray and white, and had lived her life in a barn until we wrapped her up and took her home,” Christine said. “Unfortunately she developed FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and feline leukemia, and we had to have her put down.”
Christine had some misgivings when, some months later, a friend suggested it was time for another cat. But one look at Fitzi in a cage at the pet store, and it was love at first purr.
“I picked her up and she started purring,” Christine said. “We used to call Pokey a little Harley because she purred so loud, and Fitzi sounded exactly the same.”
Fitzi was a rescued cat which makes her even more special to the Chesires. Not like they’d spoil her or anything. But Miss Fitz, as she’s sometimes called, has her own pink satin cat bed in the shape of a crown in the living room and, around her neck is a collar with a pink rhinestone tag announcing her status of “Diva.” A host of special toys and a tent-like cat hideaway also adorn the living room.
“Really, did you ever see a cat like this one?” Christine’s husband asked me one day as he let the cat fling itself over backwards toward the floor while he held her.
Fitzi, basically an indoor cat, loves the great outdoors. With a family like hers, could she do less? Christine and Paul often take her outside to munch on grass. She never strays far from them and comes when called, something cats are rarely known to do.
As for her future, Christine’s goal is to back to school and study environmental science so she can do more to help preserve the natural environment. To that end, she’s also in the process of establishing a website where she can collect information about ecology and conservation and make the data available to others. Paul is in full agreement with her cause and is building the website for her.
Christine expresses her motivation in basic terms: “I worry about global warming and man’s impact on the earth. I want to give back to Mother Earth which has given so much to me.”
Thank you Christine, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Joyce Starr Macias and Story of My Life®