My father, Teddy Cheche, passed away Saturday, January 19, 2019 at the age of 87 in the presence of both my sister and me. Dad was born in Auburn, where he was the son of the late Matthew "Matty" and Antoinette Gelo Cheche, and as they did, lived his entire life in Auburn. More so than any of his accomplishments, dad wished to be remembered as a caring and diligent funeral director for more than six decades. Teddy's desire to be a funeral director reached its pinnacle in 1957, when at the age of 26, he designed and built a funeral home from the ground up. Till this day, he is the only director in the Central New York area to enter into such an endeavor, solely to efficiently serve families and attendees.
Ted's father was an accomplished, nationally known bowler at the turn of the century. He so believed in the value of the sport and its potential as a family recreation, that he chose to instruct my dad how to bowl as a very young boy. At age 5, young Teddy bowled a 508 score. Because of his unique talent, his dad chose to tour with him across the United States proving what the sport could become for all. Ted bowled in ABC tournaments for many of the subsequent years, bowling in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, etc., with the well known Doan's Meat Market teams, with his dad, Dr. Nolan, Bill Bouley and many alternating notables from Auburn. He was a voting delegate on the national ABC Board as a young kid. As a young man in one of the tournaments, dad was allowed to put a demonstration on displaying the first automatic pin setter. In 1937, Fox Movietone News, came to Auburn to film my dad as a young phenom and dubbed him on air as "Boy Wonder". The film appeared across the nation. The Fox Feature was called Young America and his exploits coupled with a young skater were the focus of the movie. For many of the reasons above, the American Bowling Congress acknowledges and records him as the youngest bowler ever to compete in as well as vote as a delegate in an ABC Tournament.
Ted was competitive in many other sports, but, he felt honored and lucky to play for respected coaches Bob Dean and Herald Button of the first ever, four consecutive year undefeated Auburn High School football teams.
Dad's father, Matty, passed away in 1949, leaving Ted with the privilege and responsibility of becoming New York State's youngest insurance agent. He ran and grew the agency until his induction in the US Army. Dad served active duty during the Korean Conflict with both the 9th and 69th Infantry Divisions.
After his time in the Army, Teddy fell in love with aviation and flying. During his high school days, he would skip school with his friend Bobby Rudick and "borrow" an old Waco bi-plane. He later honed his skills flying thousands of hours fairing planes to Skaneateles from the Piper factories in Lockhaven, PA and Vero Beach, FL, for Empire Aviation. During this time he became friends with the famous William Piper where he was quite lucky to be asked to fly the first, all-metal Piper Cherokee into New York State. Dad was a historical aviation enthusiast, having flown in many WWII vintage aircraft. Dad was a member of the Confederate Air Force, paying homage to the near extinct, 1941-1945 military aircrafts. During his years of flying, he volunteered his time to fly ill and injured patients to hospitals within the Eastern and Central United States. He was a commander of the Robert L. Scott Civil Air Patrol Cadet Squadron of Cayuga County teaching the local youth about aviation. His most precious and final hours controlling an airplane were spent flying simultaneously with myself in the renowned P-51 Mustang with the Dean of Warbirds, Mr. Lee Lauderbach.
One of the most precious moments that I personally shared with my dad was the day I kidnapped him, flew him to Chicago, and then drove to Iowa in the middle of the night. I woke him at sunrise parked in center field at the famous Field of Dreams. We played catch, and I took a picture of him walking into the corn.
He was an enthusiastic lifelong parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church where he sat on the Committee to build the present church in 1957 and in later years, the construction of the new parish hall. Ted was a Eucharistic Minister, Lector and also built and donated the present Norwegian Rose marble Altar. He was active in the Knights of Columbus.
Dad was always respectful of the accomplishments of others. He did so by donating his time to the Lincoln Republican Committee, Christopher Columbus Commemorative Committee, The Italian Heritage Society, and the Italian American Club. He was a member of the Moose Lodge and was a Charter Member of the Dutch Hollow Country Club.
He was honored to serve and be a member of our community. This fact was evident by the constant smile that he had on his face. The same smile that existed at the time of his passing.
Dad is survived by one daughter Lynn Cheche Baker (Wayne); and myself Matthew P. Cheche, all of Auburn.
Ted's grandfather was a large influence in his life. Rafael Cheche, who lived to be 92, taught my father about strength and endurance, as well as kindness and compassion. His grandfather was a railroad construction foreman since 1902 as the first ties were set in Central New York. He was a kind and compassionate man. He based his ability to influence Ted's placid personality, by virtue of the life lessons that he and my grandfather learned by losing their entire immigrant families, in an explosion in 1912.
In addition to his parents, Dad is predeceased by his wife Pauline Speno Cheche; brothers Ralph Cheche as well as young Ralphie, and Paulie Cheche. He was further predeceased by my mother’s brother Sen. Edward J. Speno and sister Dorothy R. Robinson.
Friends are invited to join our family for a Mass of Christian Burial to be offered Saturday at 11:00am in St. Francis Church. Burial with full military honors will follow in St. Joseph's Cemetery. Calling hours will be conducted Friday, January 25 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9pm in the Cheche Funeral Home inc., 1778 Clark St. Rd., Auburn.
Contributions may be made in memory of Ted to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
Our precious dad, Teddy, never said "I am", and for that reason we must say, "he was".
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Theodore L. Cheche, please visit our floral store.