Death of couple; legacy remains

Local muralist Harimandir Khalsa and Mark Chiappini, co-owner of Chiappini's store corner on SR 26 and SR 21 in Melrose, hold each other Tuesday, mourning friends Cherie McArthur, 49, and Cathleen Carter, 38. The couple died Sunday in a vehicle crash in western Putnam County.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 12:05 a.m.
The coffee shop that two women made a fixture in Melrose now stands in memory of the business' co-owners, killed over the weekend by a drunken driver whose license had been revoked years earlier, according to troopers.
"They made this into a community center, a place where you can come and meet people. It's like the Cheers bar," said Kirsten Engstrom, 60, of Melrose, referring to the Take Me Places coffee shop off State Road 26 and its owners Cherie Ann McArthur and Cathleen Carter.
Now, Engstrom said, "It's becoming our grieving site, our comforting site."
What started with a few flowers near a sculpture outside the shop had blossomed by Tuesday. Flowers clustered at the base and framed the statue along with a sign reading, "In loving memory," of the two women.
McArthur, 49, and Carter, 38, had been heading home from a benefit event near Flagler Beach Sunday evening. They were riding on McArthur's Harley-Davidson motorcycle on State Road 100 when they approached Rice Creek Bridge about four miles west of Palatka in Putnam County.
Coming toward their westbound motorcycle, troopers say, was a car driven by Randy Morin, 33, of Satsuma.
Morin, who has three prior DUI convictions and had lost his driver's license, is accused of again driving under the influence. His 1987 Volvo struck a guardrail, hit the bridge's concrete wall and stopped, blocking the motorcycle's path.
The women were thrown from the motorcycle by the impact. Both were wearing helmets, said Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Brent Coates, but died from their injuries.
Morin was being held at the Putnam County jail without bond Tuesday on charges including DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Breath tests showed Morin had an alcohol level of 0.16 and 0.15, Coates said. The legal limit in Florida is 0.08. Troopers are awaiting blood tests from Morin.
Classified as a habitual traffic offender, Morin had his license indefinitely revoked in 1996, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
FHP spokesman Lt. Bill Leeper said, "Obviously, it's someone who should not have been driving and as a result two people are dead."
"There was no reason for it," Engstrom said about the crash.
As for Morin, she said, "I have a great need to never see him on the highway again."
McArthur and Carter met several years ago, said friend Brenda Carlson of Gainesville. Carlson was one of several people who had intended to take the trip to Flagler Beach with the women, but plans changed at the last minute, she said.
People who knew the women said McArthur had served in the U.S. Navy, was a licensed acupuncturist and was a community activist. She was an "avid adventure lover," enjoying motorcycling, boating and horseback riding.
Carter had been studying to be a minister. Her talents, some said, ranged from counseling to "serving a great cup of coffee." She also handled insurance billing for area businesses.
"They're partners, both in business and domestic partners," Engstrom said.
The women opened the shop about four years ago. "That little coffee shop has been probably the most personable and warm place," Carlson said.
Others said they would make a point to stop by the shop, even if they didn't live in the area, just to say hello.
"They were my good riding buddies, and the light of my life," said Robin Romaine, 47, of Summerfield, who said she would make what she called a monthly pilgrimage to the coffee shop.
The business was more than a place to get an early morning cup of coffee, people said. Monthly art openings were hosted there. People might stop in to watch a movie. Or a yoga class could be going on.
And, even without McArthur and Carter, Engstrom said the shop has remained open this week with people coming in to staff the business.
"It's like a whole community rising up and saying, 'No. The magic these women made, we're not going to let go.' "
A memorial service is planned for the couple Sunday at 1 p.m. at the women's Melrose home. Maps with directions to the service are available at the coffee shop. A Web site also has been set up at
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or

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