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Cherry House owner a humble
honoree as Oldham County Day
parade grand marshall

By Laraine Staples
Staff Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. – “I’m not sure why or how they picked me to be the Grand Marshall in the Oldham County Day Parade,” said Owen “Jeep” Whitehouse, who owns the Cherry House Furniture Galleries with his wife, Shirley.
Humble as ever, he has no idea the positive impact he has made on his community and all of the lives he has touched over the years.
He will be honored at a July 11 luncheon at the Oldham County Community and Convention Center in Buckner, Ky.

Whitehouse is a member of the Ballardsville Baptist Church, and through the church and its mission involvement has participated in numerous good deeds.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Oldham County Day. An ad was placed in the local paper for citizens to nominate people whom they think has given something back to the community. Several people suggested Whitehouse because of his anonymous activities, according to the Project Guild members, who organize the annual event.
After he was chosen, coming up with a theme came easily, said Jean-Marie Andrew, this year’s Oldham County Day chairperson.
“He has a spirit of individualism and a sense of adventure about him, which he acts on,” she said.
Each year, Whitehouse travels with the church to Central America to do mission work. He recently returned from a six-week mission trip to Toca, Honduras. In 1999, the church purchased 38 acres of ground in Honduras to build shelter homes for the people there.
“Twenty-seven of us went on this trip, and we were able to complete 10 houses,” Whitehouse said.
He also delivers free food locally to various charities, such as the American Red Cross, Senior Citizens homes, Cedar Lake Lodge, Cedar Moore in Shelbyville, and a Oneida camp for troubled youths near Manchester, Ky.
At the Ronald McDonald House in Louisville, he is known as “The Pie Man” because of the numerous bakery goods he unloads regularly.
“They don’t even know who Jeep is,” he says.
Cherry House employee Louisa Davis says, “He is one of the finest men I know. He is generous, friendly and never meets a stranger. He never tells on himself or brags about his good deeds. He is quiet, soft-spoken and always wears a smile on his face.”
The people at the Mud Creek Medical Clinic in Pikeville, Ky., have experienced the Jeep touch.
In 1993, the church sent 22 people, including 14 youth, to build a 30x50-foot building for dental offices and a medical clinic at Mud Creek.
Describing the work scene, Whitehouse said, “You cannot be a perfectionist or an engineer on these job sites. We may have 15 screws in one board and only five in another. The kids would just beat a nail to death, so we had to give them screws and a drill instead.”
In Honduras, they lack modern electric tools. They work in 100-degree heat. They use concrete block because the termites are so bad. They have to pulley the blocks up by hand. “We work 12 to 15 hours a day, and those kids hang right in there with ya,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse was born on Dec. 26, 1930, and raised in Ballardsville, Ky. His father, Owen Sr., was a builder and remodeler and spent the bulk of his time building churches. Owen Jr. took after his father and entered the building field as well.
Several years back, Shirley Whitehouse wanted to try her hand at business. At the time, she was sewing for a physician in Crestwood who had five daughters. They purchased a small furniture store from Phyllis Cash. Shirley had intended to sew, sell a little furniture and bake cookies.
“She never got to make the first cookie,” Jeep Whitehouse said.
The store took off right away and continues to grow. They kept adding on to that small furniture store and now they own Cherry House stores in La Grange and Louisville.
They have succeeded in the furniture and decorating business by having quality products and personal service they provide through the 90 employees.
Shirley and son, Steve, manage the daily operations at the Cherry House, while Jeep, semi-retired and in between mission trips and model T car trips, prefers to tend to the grounds at Cherry House, where they have made their home on 32 acres of park-like grounds.
In 1990, he purchased his first Model T and has been hooked ever since.
Three years ago he built a Model T Garage. He currently has a 1917 six-post delivery Model T, a 1914 Roadster and a 1914 Speedster. Whitehouse and his grandson, Matthew, are in the process of building a Model T.
“Matthew loves to get his tools, and has probably taken those spark plugs out and put them back in 100 times,” Whitehouse said. Together they have been traveling since Matthew was just 31/2 years old. Jeep has been as far as Seattle in a Model T.
You must keep a sense of humor, otherwise you can get overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done and how much more there is to do.
Whitehouse said he feels honored to be selected as the parade grand marshall, but added, “I am just one spoke in this huge wheel. My priceless family and friends have been tremendously supportive of me and my volunteer efforts.”
Just call it a Jeep thing.

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