May 29, 1955 – Nov 18, 2010
A longtime member of the Spirit booth in Community Village, Anna Armaiti (aka Cheryl Alekner, aka Ophidia) passed from this earthly plane on Nov. 18, 2010, after a two-year struggle with ovarian cancer.
She was born Cheryl Ann Alekner on May 29, 1955, in Decatur, Illinois, to William Lee and Virginia Jan Walkinshaw Alekner. Early on,her family moved to Napa, California, where she graduated from Napa High School.She later moved to Berkeley, California, and became a bookkeeper while also studying with feminist spirituality teacher Vicki Noble.
During this time, Cher (as she was known) adopted the name Ophidia and kept more than 100 reptile pets in her apartment, including a three-foot Savannah monitor Lizard who lived in the bathroom, Marley the South African Burrowing Bullfrog, Ishi the iguana, and several boas. As Ophidia became more immersed in feminist spirituality, she found that her bookkeeping job did not match her personal ethics, and quit.
In the 1980s, she joined Berkeley’s Emerald Earth Laughing and Drumming Society, where she met Don St. Clair. They became partners for almost a decade. Her original chants and songs were published in “Songs for Earthlings,” compiled by Jess Shoup. She performed at several large group rituals in the San Francisco Bay area,including events facilitated by feminist authors Riane Eisler and Starhawk. Anna also was a musician along with Don at Unity of the Spirit Church in Lafayette, California, and a member of Berkeley’s Gorilla Choir, along with Don and his future partner, Fiora. The Gorilla Choir performed at many events, ranging from San Francisco Earth Day 1990 to the Oregon Country Fair.In 1990, Don and Anna (performing as “Dawn and Ophidia”) traveled on a 20-city tour with the Redwood Summer national road show to promote saving the last coastal old-growth redwoods. Their live album,”Songs for Redwood Summer,” will be released for free online soon.
Don brought Anna to her first Rainbow Gathering and her first Oregon Country Fair. An avid gardener, she fell in love with Eugene her first day after walking to Sundance and noticing the many front-yard gardens. She moved to Eugene in 1993. She and Don parted ways amicably a while later.
In Eugene, Anna became a member of the Sufi and Pagan communities. She participated in the Spirit Booth at the Oregon Country Fair,and performed with the Middle Eastern Dance Guild and with the band Americanistan.
In 1995, Anna met her soulmate, Daniel Ishaq Jud, a Sufi teacher. They shared a home, a passion for music, and their lives until he died in 2006 of early onset diabetes.
Anna had a beautiful voice, played guitar, led Dances of Universal Peace in and outside the Community Village, and was a prolific song-writer. She worked in many artistic media, including photography, T-shirt design and painting. She was a garage sale queen, avid gardener,cat lover and fashionista.
Anna is preceeded in death by her mother. She is survived by her father, and her two kitties Sequoia and Akbar (who have since found new loving homes). We love you, Anna, and wish you peace.