Cheryl and Jake, married for 54 years, are spending precious moments together before Christmas this year.
EAGAN, Minn. – Christmas is a big deal in Ann Johnson’s family.
Her mother, Cheryl, still hosts Christmas gatherings, cooks Christmas meals and bakes Christmas cookies, while her father Jake helps set up lights and decorations earlier than most of the other residents in their neighborhood.
After 54 years of marriage, it’s kind of their thing.
“It’s a landmark story. They met in fifth grade at a ball,” Ann said. “My dad really fell in love with my mom. What about my mom? She played a little hard to get.”
Even though they love Christmas, Cheryl and Jake usually don’t turn on their Christmas lights until Thanksgiving.
But this year they are breaking the rules.
âIt’s a new ball game,â Cheryl said. “It’s a new game in town.”
That’s because Cheryl, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, decided with her family last month to stop treatment.
âIt’s been a tough two years,â Ann said. “It really highlighted how precious every moment is.”
So Jake, knowing the way to his wife’s heart, had an idea.
Just in time for the holidays.
âI just said, ‘Oh, what if we just had a tunnel of lights?’â Jake said. âWhen we had her most recent diagnosis, we just said, ‘This is the right thing to do.’ She loves Christmas. “
With help from their neighbors in a tight-knit subdivision of Eagan, Jake enlisted Matt Golden of Urban Services – the company that usually does their Christmas parties – to light 49 trees in the neighborhood. It took Golden a week to complete all the work, using over 600 strands of light.
The end result was just fantastic.
“The lights,” Cheryl said in a brief interview from her front door, “are so pretty.”
Cheryl has marveled at the lights for weeks, since they first appeared in October.
Everything to make her smile, in Jake’s mind.
“You’re a champion. She’s so strong. Just amazing,” Jake said to Cheryl by her side. “The neighbors were great and they celebrated it with us. They were so supportive of us throughout the whole thing.”
Steve and Karla Jay, who have lived next door to Jake and Cheryl for several years in Eagan, described the couple as “remarkable and remarkable people.”
âIt’s breathtaking to drive,â said Steve. “It’s Jake’s generosity. It’s a beautiful tribute, to his wife, our friend. The neighborhood loves him.”
And that, her daughter Ann said, “makes her heart smile.”
âYou are looking at a love letter from my dad to my mom,â Johnson said under the lights. âWhen mom is in pain, it’s daddy’s kryptonite. They are an amazing partnership, and having a neighborhood like this, and having an amazing team of friends and family, really helped them out. “