CLEARWATER — Andy Cherrette never relied much on luck. It was a fortuitous trait for a man who took several hard knocks in his adult life, but always regained his footing.
He was beaten up in a random mugging, then later surprised by a tragedy at his own wedding, only to see the marriage abruptly end a few years later.
Mr. Cherrette persevered, building a career selling electronic components, most recently for a company called Newark. He locked onto potential customers with his deep blue eyes — "angel eyes," a relative had called them — and held them. He promised and delivered. If he had to, he begged until he got the sale.
Mr. Cherrette died May 25. He was 60 and had undergone multiple surgeries for cancer.
His hero was Joe Nemechek, a middle-of-the-pack NASCAR driver who was, like Mr. Cherrette considered himself, a local guy.
"He didn't have my picture in his wallet, but he did have Joe Nemechek's fan club card in his wallet," said Jeannie Farnan, Mr. Cherrette's girlfriend since the 1990s.
Mr. Cherrette vacationed in the Keys in the early 1970s and stayed in Florida. He got his first job, at Honeywell, after calling the boss so many times, the supervisor cried uncle.
His only marriage, in the 1980s, was marred when the best man hanged himself in his room after the wedding ceremony. Three years later, Mr. Cherrette found his wife gone and his home stripped of all objects except her wedding dress, a Hibachi grill and his cat, Roy.
Mr. Cherrette enjoyed watching Fox News, particularly The O'Reilly Factor, and surfed restlessly during commercials.
"It was painful to watch TV with him," said Farnan, 52. "You were exhausted."
He disliked liberals, especially Jane Fonda. Since Farnan was a Democrat, he reminded her on election days that he had just "canceled out your vote."
The son of an Army officer, Mr. Cherrette lived in several places growing up. "We were kind of the class clowns, the crazies," recalled longtime friend Greg "Og" Phillipson, who attended high school with Mr. Cherrette in Lansing, Mich. "Brilliant minds, but derelict."
He served two tours in the Army during the Vietnam war, including time as a door gunner and crew chief on a helicopter. He graduated from Michigan State University and briefly considered a career in teaching, even after being brutally beaten by a group of juveniles in a random attack.
Doctors diagnosed Mr. Cherrette with renal cancer in December 2008. He fought it until May 17, when a doctor suggested one more surgery.
"He said, 'No, doc, I'm all done. I'm going home,' " Farnan said.
Mr. Cherrette's ashes will be buried in Bay Pines National Cemetery, with military honors, and a replica of Joe Nemechek's race car on top of the urn.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]