Cheryl Watson Mingle started doing genealogy work about 18 years ago when she was executive director of the McMinnville-Warren County Senior Center.
Guided by two experts, Jacine Denton (mother of current McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton) and current Magness Library director Brad Walker, Cheryl discovered the joy of being a “family detective” and piecing together information about her ancestors.
“It’s like opening a Christmas present,” she says of making a genealogical discovery. As genealogist at Magness Library, Cheryl enjoys helping others find information about their own families, guiding them along in the process the same way Jacine Denton and Brad Walker guided her.
Cheryl grew up in the Bel-Aire community as the oldest of four children. Her father was a firefighter and preacher, and her mother was a homemaker. Cheryl remembers when her father would wake up in the middle of the night to go put out a fire somewhere, she would wake up as well and, as a game, would try to get dressed before he did. One night, when their mother was in the hospital and therefore unable to watch them, the Watson children did accompany their father to a fire, staying in the car while he fought the blaze with colleagues.
As the oldest of her brothers and sister, Cheryl was responsible and mature beyond her years. She would look after her siblings, and she would help her uncle’s family with household work while her uncle, James Charles Watson, was away serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Army during the Vietnam War. Cheryl, along with the rest of her family, was devastated when her uncle died on Christmas Day, 1971 in Da Nang, Vietnam, while saving one of his fellow soldiers from drowning.
As a teenager, Cheryl’s best friend was Linda Patton, who lived down the street from her and with whom she would frequently ride bicycles. Her favorite teacher in high school was Carmene Jordan, who taught Family Life, and she also enjoyed Haskell Greer’s American history class.
One time during her high school years, she and her friends toilet-papered (rolled) the yard of one of their classmates. That night Cheryl’s father received a telephone call informing him of the caper and Cheryl’s involvement. He made her go back and “unroll” the yard, but was kind enough to accompany her and help.
During December break of her sophomore year of high school, at age 15, Cheryl got married. Two years later, when she was pregnant with her first child, she decided to leave the high school and attain her general equivalency diploma. Subsequently, she worked for several years as a homemaker aide for Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.
In 1988, she began a 27-year career with the Senior Center, serving nine years as transportation program director and then 18 years as executive director. One of the traditions Cheryl started at the center occurred at the annual Thanksgiving meal. Senior Center members and staff would feast on the delectable fare while dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans.
Of her work as genealogist at Magness Library, Cheryl says, “Each day is a new adventure when you work here.”
Recently, for instance, she was contacted by staff from the National Civil War Chaplain’s Museum, who wanted her to search for information on a 19th century McMinnville resident who had been commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln as a chaplain to a Union hospital in Virginia during the Civil War.
When not at the library, Cheryl likes spending time with her 11 grandchildren, cooking (her specialty is chicken and dressing), gardening, and volunteering with local organizations like Families in Crisis domestic violence shelter and the McMinnville chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.