Sherry Miller Sabatino Lost A Furniture Store (She Wants It Back) Part 2
Recently, after Part 1 of Sherry’s story was posted on my website, she made contact, excited about finally having someone listen to her story, and write about it.
“Ally, I want you to write my book.”
“Sherry, I’m only 16 and I have to go to school.”
“No one else can tell my story like you can!”
“And after school I have track practice, and homework…”
“Ally, you can do it! You have to!”
Part 1 of Sherry’s story started with her upbringing in New Jersey. It included stories of her schooling, her father, and his interactions with the rich and famous. It ended with his disbarment, his mob connections, and one of his employees’ ties with the Abscam scandal. Sherry has graduated from high school, and Part 2 begins…
“The day came and I had to decide which one I wanted. I did choose the wrong one. I’ll be the first to admit that.” Sherry Miller’s story fascinated me when I first heard it in December, 2016, in Destin, Florida. Choices made, like marrying the wrong man, still haunt her five decades later. The good decisions live on to this day also, like deciding to be a mother and the resultant joy her children bring.
Before her fateful decision to marry the wrong man, Sherry was young and carefree. “When you’re young you think you have the world in your hands,” she laughs, shaking her head as she thinks back to the folly of her youthful naiveté. She had every reason to feel optimistic back then.
After all, she enjoyed a world class boarding school at Mt. St. Mary Academy in New Jersey, then attended Marymount College (now Lynn University) in upscale Boca Raton. At the time, Marymount was an all-girls junior college populated by students from the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Spain, Italy and South America. She then finished her studies at Florida Atlantic University.
In Boca Raton, Sherry did modeling for dress shops, and her girlfriends at Marymount were from families that read like a veritable Who’s Who of the bluebloods that inhabit the walled mansions of Florida’s Gold Coast. “All of the girls I went to school with at Marymount were extremely wealthy and very prominent people.
“One of the girls I knew, her aunt was Merriweather Post. I mean, she lived in the house Trump bought. I was in it many times when she lived there and it was fabulous.” Sherry is referencing life down the coast from Boca Raton, in Palm Beach, and the fact that in college she was “hanging out” at what is now the most famous and valuable piece of property in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, better known today as the Trump ‘Winter White House.’
Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida
Marjorie Merriweather Post (formerly Mrs. E.F. Hutton),was the daughter of the founder of the Post Cereal empire, and when her father died she inherited his estate. That was in the early 1900’s, and at that point she became the richest woman in the world.
So Sherry, my sweet new friend, who is as unpretentious as any grandmother could be, frolicked as a teen around the grounds of Mar-a-Lago with her college classmates, who also included the offspring of families that owned companies such as Rubbermaid and Grumman Aircraft.
Though Marymount was an all-girls school, boys were very much in the picture. “Guys were required to wear a coat and tie when they picked us up for a date. And they had to sign in and we had to sign out. The college had a party room that was huge, where kids could hang out and you could just meet people so easily there back in the 60’s,” Sherry says, laughing as she reminisces about the innocent days gone by when many colleges closely controlled and monitored their campuses.
Once she completed her junior college studies at Marymount, Sherry attended Florida Atlantic University, also in Boca Raton, where she studied to become a teacher. After graduating from FAU, Sherry taught at St. Ambrose, a private Montessori school in Deerfield Beach, a city adjacent to Boca Raton.
However, in order to teach Montessori school, Sherry had to go to Philadelphia in order to learn the Montessori Method of education. “In Philadelphia I was taught by Mother Isabel, who was Maria Montessori’s assistant in Europe.
I am maybe one of the five people she ever taught. Montessori started in Europe,” Sherry continues, “and it was originally for underprivileged children who didn’t have anything, and when they used Montessori’s Method of teaching those kids were above the normal children that were going to school. So they brought it here to the United States, and to the Montessori School of Boca Raton, where I put the curriculum together. The school is still there,” she finishes, another amazing recounting of a brush with greatness.
Indeed, I later confirmed, Mother Isabel Eugenie, Sherry’s mentor, learned from Maria Montessori herself, and taught and lectured extensively in England and the United States. Mother Isabel taught Rosemary Kennedy, the sister of President John Kennedy and Senators Ted and Robert Kennedy. “Learning by Mother Isabel was “something else,” Sherry says.
But as I have learned in school, teaching does not always pay well, and Sherry says “I have credits to be a school teacher but I couldn’t handle it because there was not much money to be made, so I got into retail.”
At this point Sherry’s adult life centers around working, having fun with friends, and dating. The dating stories lead Sherry to begin speaking of meeting her future husband. She brings out an album with the newspaper clipping of the wedding announcement. The article includes a photo of a resplendent young Sherry in an elegant white wedding gown, her beautiful face framed by a lace veil, and smiling, she clutches a bouquet of flowers.
“At the ceremony I never said a word. I never said, ‘I do.’ I just cried. Everybody was just waiting for me to walk away, but I didn’t. I stood there and I never said a word. I knew I had made a terrible mistake.”
As time passed and the years sped by, Sherry’s mother acquired her own opinion of her son in law. Once, when Sherry’s mother was elderly and ailing, and the subject of Sherry’s husband arose, her mother stated that she had a death wish…for Sherry’s husband. She told Sherry, “I want a gun.”
“I said, ‘Mother, what do you want a gun for?’ She said, ‘It doesn’t matter anymore for me, Sherry, I’m going to die. I just want to kill him.’ ” Those details, and more about Sherry’s explosive marriage and divorce, along with the birth and loss of her furniture chain to her son, will conclude in Part 3 of my interview with Sherry.
At this point we take a break. As a sixteen year old I have loved hearing Sherry recount her life, all 70 years of it, distilled into a chain of real life dramas, including stories of astute business dealings, and cautionary tales.
I am guessing Sherry took ownership of her successes, and her failures, long before I arrived to do this interview. There are so many life lessons to be learned, and I leave her house vowing to heed them. One lesson that stays with me now as I reflect on our conversation, is how the arc of her life has been punctuated by such extreme highs followed by crushing lows, and the positive mindset that allows her to always bounce back.
How low does Sherry’s life get? She has faced death several times. Once was after a closed fist to the face crushed her skull and left her bleeding on the floor, and another occurred when severe complications from an illness resulted in “the doctors telling my kids to prepare for my funeral.”
In between those two near death experiences, she lived in a new bayfront home she had built on exclusive Indian Trail in Destin. She then got divorced, moved, and was living by herself off of Airport Road in Destin when Sherry’s ex-husband managed to have her car repossessed. In her mid-forties at that point and ever resourceful, Sherry was forced to ride her bicycle, rain or shine, from her home on Airport Road to her job on Main Street.
Is that low enough?
But I am getting somewhat ahead of myself. I will fill in all of the shocking details, in Part 3.