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'John the Barber' auction in Cherry benefits two churches

Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 2:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 2:17 p.m. CDT
(Photo contributed)
The United Church of Christ and Holy Trinity in Cherry each received a $2,500 donation from proceeds from the “John the Barber” auction. Pictured are Father Patrick Fixsen (from left), O.S.B., Holy Trinity Cherry; Julie Hollinger, administrator, Holy Trinity Cherry; Jack Rooney, holder of “John the Barber” building; Pastor Sue Graham, Cherry United Church of Christ; and Bonnie Templeton, president, Cherry United Church of Christ. Each church will receive a $2,500 donation.

CHERRY — One would be hard pressed to remember a fundraising event that benefited side-by-side churches but that is exactly what occurred in Cherry last week, in this case benefiting both the Cherry United Church of Christ and Holy Trinity Cherry.

The auction included primarily the remaining contents of the former Cherry Supper Club. The property the building sits on was originally purchased by John Stenstrom, a minister, barber and business speculator from Arlington who secured the lots when all original Cherry city lots were sold in 1904 by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. He built a fine double-front single story building in which he operated a combination barber shop/bar on the north side and rented out the south side as a grocery store.

Stenstrom had also purchased the entire south 200 block and donated the property to the Congregational Church (now the Cherry United Church of Christ). At the time of the Cherry Mine Disaster, Stenstrom quickly stepped forward to feed and assist orphans and widows, Protestant and Catholic, of every nationality and background. These meals were served at both his barbershop and in the basement of the then Congregational Church. Interestingly enough, Protestant minister Stenstrom rented the south side of his building to Italian, Catholic grocer Dominic Formento.

Formento was one of 12 men who volunteered to be on the rescue cages at the mine, with all being killed on the seventh and final trip. Stenstrom again showed his tremendous character in 1919 when the wooden framed Catholic church burned. He donated the property for new brick Catholic church to be built, sitting then as it does now just north of the Cherry United Church of Christ.

Stenstrom lived in Cherry for the rest of his life and rests in the Cherry cemetery. He was known by many to be a very kind man and continued to cut hair out his home. He was widely known simply as “John the Barber,” a name that is still recognized by many in the area today.

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