Cheryl Vernae Grant Shepherd, also known as “Cookie,” was a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In her early days in Philadelphia, Cheryl taught at Warren G. Harding Middle School and later at William M. Meredith Elementary School. She started a disciplined dance program for the students at Meredith. She was a mentor to both mothers and students.
Shepherd died on January 17. She was 61.
Shepherd was born on February 7, 1950, to Helen Grant and Daniel Martin Sr. in Harlem, N.Y. She moved to St. Helena Island, S.C., in the early 1950’s and was primarily raised by her maternal grandparents, the late William Boles Chaplin and the late Louise Capers Chaplin.
She was raised in the Christian faith. She was baptized at Ebenezer Baptist Church on St. Helena Island at an early age and became a congregation member. She lived across the road from a small prayer house where she could hear the charismatic praises going forth in songs like ‘Come On InThis House (It’s gonna rain)’ from the swing on her porch.
Shepherd graduated from St. Helena High School where she was also a drum major in the high school band. Her family said she was “fierce struttin’” as she led the band down the St. Helena roads.
She spent summers in New York City with her mother, step-father, the late Joseph Porter, and two sisters Donna and Kimberly. In her teen years, she worked at the great Macy’s on 34th Street in Manhattan as a summer job.
Shepherd later attended Spelman College, Allen University and Montclair State University where she earned her degrees and credentials in health/physical education and dance.
While at Allen University, she met Ronald Shepherd with whom she traveled and sang in the University choir.
She later moved to Newark, N.J., where she taught physical education and coached the girl’s track team at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. While there, she and Ronald married in 1974. Soon after, she moved to Philadelphia. In 1977, she and her husband welcomed their only child, Chaz Lamar Shepherd. Chaz became the joy of her life.
Shepherd also taught for a time at Freedom Theater. She started Philadelphia’s first young people’s dance company, “Lessons In Dance Studio.” There she trained Chaz but kicked him out due to “his funky attitude.” She used her son as an example to the other students, showing that no one was exempt from the expectation of excellent behavior. She was also on the board of the Annenberg Theater.
In her last days, she found joy in seeing some of the vision God gave her of her son manifest. Chaz’s life was her joy and inspiration though she had her own individual ministry beyond him. Her later joy was her “Snug-a-bug,” Harlem Sorah Shepherd, her only grandchild.
Harlem called her “Grammy” as Shepherd wished and she enjoyed her granddaughter sleeping with her and running around the house. Through her health challenges, Chaz and Harlem gave her hopeful days.
Shepherd leaves to mourn: son, Chaz Shepherd; granddaughter, Harlem Sorah; mother, Helen Porter-Spahn (William); father, Daniel Martin Sr. (Ruby); two sisters, Donna Cunningham (Stan) and Kimberly Porter’s three brothers, Daniel Martin Jr.(Reba), Max Martin (Kim) and George Robert Chaplin; one niece, three nephews and a host of loving relatives and friends.
Services will be held Jan. 26, at Mt. Enon Baptist Church, 500 Snyder Ave. The viewing will be at 9 a.m. The service will start at 11. Waller Robinson Gray Funeral Home handled the arrangements.