Friday, October 2, 2015

The Perfect Package - Steve and Bea Cheney

By now our friends should be getting the idea that we live in a remarkable area with remarkable people. It is such a pleasure sharing their stories.

It's time for another.

Let me introduce Steve and Bea Cheney. Gosh, I love these people. They are the perfect package: Humility, faith, hard work and adorable. See if you agree.

Steve Cheney has had quite the life, His mom loved to entertain. Not entertain as in lovely dinner parties. Entertain as in grab the instruments, train the children, throw the whole family up on stage and play music for the customers. He spent much of his childhood playing 'gig's in and around the Salt Lake area.....sometimes even in a hidden 'bar' in downtown Salt Lake City, and later in Honolulu.

Steve playing bass (age 13) at "The Homestead" in Midway, Utah
with mom, step-dad and grandfather

In the meantime, his future bride, who was born and raised here in Hawaii, worked hard and studied harder. She was a quiet girl, sweet, respectful, and a stunning beauty.

Steve didn't grow up in an active family - but there was a point in his life at age 19 that the Lord's hand guided him towards the Church. This came about because he began attending college at The Church College of Hawaii (now renamed BYU-Hawaii). It is there that Steve and Beas's paths crossed. It was there they fell in love. It did not take long before they knew that they were going to be married, but first, Steve clearly came to understand that he needed to serve a mission. He was called to serve in the "Western States Mission"

So, off on a mission he went. Bea supported him, the Lord guided him, and his testimony grew.

After his mission, he returned and resumed classes. He and Bea married within weeks. Steve augmented their very tight budget by playing the steel guitar, which he had learned to play in 1961, at various venues across the island. He studied wood working and cabinetry making in school. Both of these activities were wonderful skills to have around the island. It helped them to continue in school and to start a family.

One day, however, catastrophe struck when Steve lost parts of three fingers on his left hand while in woodworking shop. It was impossible to play the steel guitar. It was impossible to do carpentry work. Steve and Bea fell into some very lean times, indeed and had to live off of Bea's salary at the PCC, but Steve was determined. He found a way, through much practice and some modifications to play the steel guitar, and as soon as he healed, he began carpentry work again.

Their living conditions were basic, their income spotty and so Steve eventually ended up leaving school.....and their family grew. They had 8 children in all, 7 boys and 1 girl.

Steve found after a while that his family needed a bigger place to live. But how? The industrious Cheneys knew that the solution was in their hands, and so....they built a house. It took 2 years, but with very hard work, both on the house and with the two jobs necessary to obtain their goal, the Cheneys were now homeowners.

And still the family grew and grew, so much so that only two years later it became clear that it was time to find a larger house. And so the process started all over again.

As I read through Steve and Bea's extensive biographies, it became clear that challenges were constant. The entertainment business is a dog-eat-dog world, and the construction industry is no less so. Steve suffered a number of broken contracts, false promises and outright swindles. Yet he and Bea worked through the disappointments and chose to forgive and move on. Some people may even fault them for being that 'soft', but I found the opposite. Their great faith, positive attitudes and determination to move forward is a talent and virtue that has sustained them through trials that would crush most of us. One of the most difficult happened during this time in their lives.

It was a hot afternoon in 1983. Steve and Bea had just successfully obtained a building permit for a new home that morning. Steve relates that he was inside his house when he heard a squeal of brakes and a thud. Running outside, he found that his 7 year old, Ammon, had been hit by a car. Despite great efforts by medical personal and bystanders, Ammon was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The loss of a child did not change the fact that they Cheneys needed to continue moving forward. They built their 2nd home and moved into it in 1985. It was only partially finished, and took several years to complete, but they did what they've always done and finished it bit by bit.

In 1986 Steve had a clear impression that he needed to return to college to finish his education. It turns out that this was extremely providential as the degree he was working towards was dropped shortly thereafter.

Some of Steve's handiwork.....

His handmade steel guitar

During these times Steve was either working at The Polynesian Cultural Center or BYU-Hawaii. Both his musical and woodworking skills certainly came in handy!

In reviewing Steve's biography through the 90s up until the early 2000s, life was pretty normal for the Cheney family. Sons went on missions, and one-by-one the children began to marry. Steve worked hard by day and played music by night. He and Bea traveled a bit to attend conventions and musical events. It seemed as if they were finally able to live a simple, carefree and happy life.

I refer to his next entry, from 2006:

Bea was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease this year.  At first it was traumatic to Bea to be diagnosed but I constantly reassured her that I would take care of her and be there for her.  This initial diagnosis was incorrect as years later it was found out to be DRPLA.  For Bea’s sake and to her wishes, we tried our best to not make a big thing about her disease and just lived life as normal as we could as the disease progressed.   We try to keep her condition low key to others as much as possible.

It becomes difficult not to mention Bea's diagnosis, not because of the tragedy of it all, but because of the quiet triumph that comes from two humble people who love each other so much that they can and will take what comes and utilize it to the best of their abilities. Steve is a devoted husband, and there is no doubt that Bea would be lost without him. But Bea is still Bea. She is loving, she is funny, and she is in every way Steve's other half. They are an eternal unit, formed through trials, tears, happiness and faith. They don't travel, but then again, they don't need to. They don't live in a mansion, but they live in a sturdy home built with their own hands. They aren't the world's definition of famous, and yet.....they are known around the world.

Every evening except for Sunday they come to the Polynesian Cultural Center luau as volunteers. Steve plays his handmade steel guitar. Bea cheers him and the other performers on and helps to guide guests coming in and out. Whichever of the missionaries assigned to 'Exit Duty' gets to sit next to Bea and drink in her beauty, be touched by Steve's quiet dedication, and in all circumstances witness a perfect marriage. Perfect because it accepts imperfections. Perfect because it is built on trust, hope and faith. Perfect because it is eternal.

As I said earlier, the perfect package. God bless them.

"I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. There are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal..." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland


  1. Did you write that yourself, Nina? Very nicely written and inspiring. I wish I could know this couple you describe. Glad you are still serving your mission well.
    Sister Hinckley (alias Christine)

    1. Thank you, Christine / Sister Hinckley ( ;-) )

      Yes, I did. It's a hobby that I really enjoy. They really are the most lovely couple. Glad I could share them with you.

  2. Another wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights with us.