Dena Lee (Cherry) Rowley, 89, of Vandalia, IL, went to heaven on February 16, 2022, at the SBL Long-term Care Facility in Vandalia, IL.
A memorial service will be held at Unity Baptist Church on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, with Pastors Joe Lawson and Robert Weaver officiating. Visitation will take place at 10:00 a.m. with the funeral service at 11:00 a.m. Internment will take place at McInturff Cemetery, rural Vandalia. The Miller Funeral Home is assisting with arrangements. Memorials may be given to the Fayette County Health Department Hospice or Dena’s alma mater of Oklahoma Baptist University. Online condolences can be expressed at www.millerfh.net.
Dena Lee Cherry was born in November 1932, in Lindsay, Okla., the daughter of Rev. Bert I. and Vigie Cherry. She had an older brother, Bert B., and a younger brother, Bill. Her childhood was spent in Oklahoma and Texas, as her family moved when her father became the pastor of a new church or when he served as an Army Chaplain during World War II. Dena graduated high school in Madill, Okla., at the age of 16.
As a teenager, Dena dreamed of going to Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) in Shawnee like her daddy did, and to marrying a preacher like her mother did. Dena realized both of those dreams.
While attending OBU, she met the love of her life, Dale Rowley, a ministerial student from Topeka, Kan. After graduating from OBU with a degree in Religious Education, Dena moved to Berkeley, Calif., to marry Dale in July 1953.
The Rowleys happily welcomed four children into their home. Deborah (Debbie) was born in California while Dale was attending seminary. The family moved to Grand Tower, Ill., where Daniel (Dan) and David were born. After the family moved to the Vandalia, Ill. area, Dinah was born.
While Dale served as the protestant chaplain of the Vandalia Correctional Center, Dena served her community as a member of the First Baptist Church of Vandalia, and later Unity Baptist Church. She enjoyed playing the piano, singing in the choir, and teaching Sunday School. In her home, she was a skilled seamstress and an excellent cook. She enjoyed canning the produce from the garden and her sweet pickles and grape juice are considered legendary by some. The Rowley family enjoyed traveling.
While her children were still in school, she also served as a substitute teacher for the Vandalia school system, while focusing on her primary vocation as mother. She also enjoyed babysitting her grandchildren when they came along.
After Dale retired from the correctional center and they became empty-nesters, Dale and Dena embarked on several international adventures where they taught English and enjoyed learning about the cultures and loving the people. These adventures included China, Thailand, and the Ivory Coast. The walls of their rural Vandalia home (until early 2020) were lined with photos of the family they loved and mementos of their travels, including a bell collection.
Dena was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, and daughter Debbie Lawson.
She is survived by her husband, Dale, of Vandalia; son Dan (Donna) of Beltsville, Md.; son David (Christine) of Surry, Va., and daughter Dinah (Gale) Jordan of Kissimmee, Fla.; and son-in-law Joe (Joy) Lawson of Vandalia. She is survived by six grandchildren, in order of age: Christy (Doug) Forbes, Becky (Micah) Mosher, Tim Lawson, Daniel Rowley, Treva Rowley, and Josh (Kristen) Lawson and several great grandchildren.
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